[Coral-List] Florida's barrier reef seen doomed by 2000

Robert Bourke rbourke at OCEANIT.COM
Fri Jul 24 11:38:18 EDT 2015

Greta, Peter, & List;
	There are two shifting baselines: One is the slow shift over time as the ecosystem changes and adapts to new conditions, Second is the increased capacity of our science to detect these changes.  It's true that there have been more coral outbreaks recorded in Kaneohe Bay in recent years, but it is also true that as recently as a few decades ago we didn't know anything about coral diseases and couldn't have documented them if we wanted to.  It is quite possible that there were disease outbreaks in Kaneohe Bay in the 1970's and 1980's, but that nobody noticed because we knew so little about these diseases, and were all just happy to witness and document the regrowth of corals in the bay following the cessation of sewage flow into that waterbody.
	So how is this new generation of scientists going to use this new knowledge?  Are they going to continue the recent trend of documenting the demise of the ecosystem in greater and greater detail?  This is by far the easiest but most neglectful pathway. "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."     Perhaps it's time we began to change the way in  which natural resource scientists are trained and integrated into our society.
	I was trained as an aquarist, and I've come to believe that aquarists approach natural resource problems in a unique manner.  Give an aquarist 5 panels of glass and ask him/her to create a specific display for a specific creature or ecosystem from anywhere on earth and the challenge will be met.  Think about how hard that is to accomplish next time you walk through a good zoo or aquarium.  One has to balance all the physical, chemical, and biological inputs, outputs and forces to re-create a model ecosystem niche for the target specimen.   I believe that it's time for scientists to take more of a stewardship roll in our environment.  Don't just complain about the weather.  Natural scientists need to identify a piece of the ecosystem that needs stewardship, find out what's wrong with it, and then set out to fix it..  Think like an aquarist.

Bob Bourke 
Environmental Scientist

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Greta Aeby
Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2015 10:27 PM
To: Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
Cc: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Florida's barrier reef seen doomed by 2000


  Thanks for bringing this to all of our attention.  It is important to prevent the "shifting baseline" problem.  Younger marine scientists could be fooled into thinking that Florida's reefs always looked the the way they do today.  Unfortunately, Hawaii's coral reefs are starting down the same path, of increased frequency of coral disease outbreaks and lack of any significant action to address the underlying problems of overfishing and land-based pollution.  Sedimentation, leakage of nearshore cesspools and injection wells and sewage overflows during rainy seasons are a chronic problem for Hawaii's reefs.  In Kaneohe Bay, Oahu we have had 3 major coral disease outbreaks (progressive tissue loss diseases) affecting 100s of corals within the past 5 years.  Will society allow Hawaii's reefs to die as well?


Greta Aeby, PhD
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

On Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 9:52 AM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:

> Hi Gene and listers,
> Yes, old news reports can bring back memories.  Thanks for sharing.
> Some will immediately latch onto the date, 2000, and say, "hey, there 
> is still some living reef here, therefore those ancient scientists did 
> not know what they were talking about."  Others may latch onto Walter 
> Jaap's dismissal re the amount of reef area sampled as further proof 
> against those ancient scientists.  Others may vaguely (or more 
> clearly) remember that it is not the total area in sample plots, but 
> their dispersion across the area and how their data are handled 
> statistically that determines whether the sampling was adequate.  And 
> others will reflect on the real message conveyed by Shinn, Porter, 
> Ogden and others:  that the Florida reef tract was in decline, that 
> there were diseases and pollution, and likely too many people -- and 
> these others will know that those observations were correct back then, 
> and that things have not improved very much if at all since then, 
> except that the question of whether we are the cause, or whether 
> climate change is involved is now in far less doubt (emphatic yes to both).
> No, it did not "disappear" by 2000, but we still seem to ignore the 
> need to substantially change our behavior in order to give it much 
> chance for the future.
> And the Florida reef tract is just one of many reef regions around the 
> world where our conservation efforts could be far more robust than 
> they have been to date.
> Gene keep up your photo documentation effort.  we need a visual 
> history for that day in the future when we finally want to see exactly 
> what the Anthropocene has wrought.
> Peter Sale
> @PeterSale3
> www.petersalebooks.com
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
Coral-List mailing list
Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

More information about the Coral-List mailing list