[Coral-List] Why we are failing to repair coral reefs

Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Thu Oct 23 12:31:14 EDT 2014

Wow! The letters by Peter Sale and Alina Szmant touched a lot of nerves 
and set peoples juices flowing. Alina was so right! I saw the proof of 
that in the Florida Keys 3 months ago.I gather what started this thread 
was the draft recovery plan for Acropora. I had not read the latest plan 
but read an earlier version a few years ago. In the most recent version 
the size of the critical habitat for Acropora in Florida has been 
reduced somewhat. An earlier version was larger and included areas where 
geological research indicated Acropora never grew.

The latest draft plan does however; contain an abundance of good 
information. Clearly a lot of time and work went into its preparation. I 
only wish there had been one or two coral reef geologists on the 
project. Recovery plans in the Keys are difficult considering the 
rapidly increasing population and at the same time having been a coral 
reef sanctuary for more than two decades. Unfortunately corals have 
continued to die in the sanctuary and have been doing so since the late 
1970s. Clearly there was little management could do to prevent coral 
decline and it is doubtful anything can be done to bring the corals back 
to their previous state in our lifetime. Transplanting may help 
somewhat. Coral death in the keys is not new. Geological research 
determined two 500-year periods of staghorn absence well before there 
were people in the Keys. One centered at 4,500 years ago and one center 
at 3,000 years. In addition the area contains several submerged reef 
flats created by elkhorn coral that had once grown up to sea level. 
These submerged reef flats are now submerged under 20 ft. of water and 
carbon 14 dating indicated they ceased growing approximately 5,000 years 
before present. Why did they not recommence growth, as sea level rose to 
its present level is anyone's guess? If elkhorn died around 5,000 years 
ago and did not regrow how can we expect them to grow back now? 
Furthermore, the present CO_2 level will remain in the atmosphere for at 
least another 100 years if all sources were stopped today. The following 
sentence in the draft recovery plan seems significant. *"Because many of 
the important threats to the recovery of elkhorn and staghorn corals are 
not directly manageable, the recovery strategy pursues simultaneous 
actions to address critical demographic factors, the range of threat, 
and knowledge gaps."* Huh?  That reads like the planners already know 
corals will not rebound soon. And yes, there certainly appears to be a 
knowledge gap. I noticed that African dust gets short thrift in the 
plan. It only discusses microbes. It did not consider the arsenic, 
copper, lead 210, Beryllium 7, Phosphorous, iron, and DDT it transports? 
They are all components of the dust that showers the entire Caribbean 
Sea for a few months each summer. Enough said! There is nevertheless 
wealth of good information in the plan. Too bad we will not see the Keys 
corals spring back in our lifetime. Gene



No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158
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