[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Thu Mar 26 15:42:39 EDT 2015

Hi Steve, and list,
I fear we may be going over old ground here.
Given that Florida is now banning use of certain words (like 'climate 
change') in a 1984-ish attempt to deny climate change, your concern may be 
justified.  (Florida has so far not gone the route of North Carolina of 
legislating sea level rise out of existence -- would that the solutions 
were so simple!)

I do not think there has been any substantive change among reef 
scientists.  We vary in how starkly we see the consequences of continued 
inaction on climate -- some, like me, believing that coral reefs (i.e. 
reefs with a substantial veneer of living corals that add CaCO3 as they 
grow) will have largely gone by mid-century if we continue our present 
inactivity, while others holding out hope that some will somehow adapt and 
survive.  But I think we all agree on what is required:

Most reefs near people can benefit from increased vigilance and clean-up 
action to correct over-fishing, pollution, and inappropriate coastal 
development that impacts reefs with burial or siltation.  Taking action on 
any of these fronts helps the situation if, as is likely, relief of one 
source of stress helps organisms cope with other sources still present. 
(I'd include action on coral disease, if I knew of any that are out there 
that can help.)

Taking action on all these fronts should buy time for coral reefs, but if 
we do not eventually take real action to stem CO2 emissions the reefs will 
be eliminated by a combination of warming and acidification, whether or 
not we have completely eliminated over-fishing, pollution and 
inappropriate development.  People might even listen to dive industry 
spokespeople who argue for action to save coral reefs.  Go for it.

And with respect to disease and perhaps to warming, I am aware that there 
are efforts by some groups to cultivate corals and use breeding programs 
to create organisms that can better cope with the environment that seems 
to be coming.  I just think that at present, these efforts have yet to 
prove successful, and many of the 'reef restoration' programs out there 
are small-scale, short-term, paper-over responses to the problem.  These 
can be useful when the small-scale short-term effort is right in front of 
a tourism enterprise -- its sort of like planting a nice garden at the 
hotel entrance.  But that is a short-term band-aid to maintain cash-flow, 
rather than a 'technological solution' to the issue of CO2 impacts on 
coral reefs.

Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com

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