[Coral-List] Replying to Peter Sale Coral Restoration

Austin Bowden-Kerby abowdenkerby at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 16:24:03 EDT 2015

Hello everyone,

I agree that we are facing a cancerous materialism that is eating away at
the planet, and that some rather slimy individuals may seize on our work to
green wash their destructive projects, but that is another topic entirely,
and certainly not an excuse to abandon the good work that some of us have
dedicated our lives to.  None of the coral restoration scientists that I
know have never promoted coral restoration as a quick-fix solution, but to
the contrary have over the years focused on using coral restoration as a
tool for supporting bigger picture solutions.

Mike, in my experience the health of both remnant and transplanted corals
is much more related to fish and invertebrate abundance than it is to water
quality (within reason of course), which plays second place in nearly every
site where I have worked in both oceans over many years.  Fish and other
species keep the seaweeds and predators and disease in check even on
nutrient-rich reefs. There are several scientific studies that support this
observation. Out-planting nursery reared corals back to overfished reefs is
not often successful, as you end up feeding the predators- unless people
want to be stuck removing predators and algae year after year.  But even
then it may be an effective strategy for some areas, especially as a
stop-gap measure as no-take areas are being established. Even the high cost
may be well worth it, if seen as a step in the community process that
builds understanding as to the importance of fish to coral survival and
health, and thus the importance of no-take areas to the long-term survival
and health of coral reefs.

The longer term solutions we seek are of course improvements in water
quality and the establishment of good MPAs, but even that will not bring
the staghorn corals back to Caribbean reefs.  In Belize, severe bleaching
and disease had wiped out all Acropora of both species from Laughing Bird
Caye National Park, and after many years with no Acropora recruits, now
these corals are back, and fish numbers are also (as expected) amazing.
The site has gained much beauty and value from many perspectives.  The
coral population is expansive and can be considered the first example of a
restored "megapopulation" (GO LISA!).  It includes most of the genetic
diversity from the wider Southern reef area that survived the various
stressors, and the corals are proving themselves to be considerably more
resilient to bleaching and disease than the original population- of course
time will only tell.  Our work in Belize is an ideal example of what is
possible when effective no-take MPAs are combined with coral restoration in
the Caribbean.  Coral reefs within MPAs will only function effectively as
intact Caribbean ecosystems once the corals are back, and they aren't
coming back without help.

Because Caribbean MPAs are missing their formerly vast populations of
Acropora, I think that we should  take them completely out of data sets
that look to verify that no-take MPAs facilitate any long-term increase in
coral cover, or enhance the recovery of any species of fish or invert that
relies heavily on branching corals.  The corals simply will not return on
their own, as the numbers of coral larvae being generated are orders of
magnitude lower than they were before the species collapse- near zero
recruitment.  Once we have a network of large patches of restored and
spawning (larval-forming) Acropora corals, then hopefully nature will begin
to take over from there.

Now that we know how to increase the functionality of no-take areas through
coral restoration, you would think that we would make that the primary
focus of the Caribbean work- but there is almost no funding.   I sometimes
wonder if this could in part be due to the opposition we have received from
"well meaning yet misguided" scientists with much bigger names and more
influence than we have?



On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 3:16 AM, Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

> Andrew:
> I think I will stick to my guns here, especially as there is only one
> Caribbean example of what can happen when the water cleans up, and zillions
> when it don't. Bill hit the nail on the head, pointing out that "restoration
> by and large addresses symptoms not causes.”
> Now that there are several recent papers pointing out that, in MPA’s, the
> presence of fish makes no difference whatsoever to coral recovery, I would
> ask everyone on this list to re-evaluate the fish paradigm.
> And, bless my soul, that classic Barbados work was 50 years ago, not
> 40…time passes when you are watching corals die...
> Mike
> On Oct 1, 2015, at 10:37 AM, Andrew Ross <ross.andrew at me.com> wrote:
> Mike,
> Respectfully disagree re. "water quality, water quality, and water quality”
> I would replace #2 with lack of fish (through ecosystem collapse?).
> We’ve grown coral in elevated nurseries in veritable soup (incl back-reef
> at Discovery Bay) to >99% survivorship and kept them alive & thriving after
> out-planting with human-playing-fish (gardening) activities:
> collecting/killing snails/worms/damsels, plucking algae etc.
> In a new community MPA in St. Mary (Jamaica) we are to the point that such
> maintenance is less and less necessary as we get more and more fish. I’d
> not say “unnecessary” though, and doubt I ever would.
> That’s not in the muddy site, mind you, but that’s another conversation
> re. ongoing investments and client “give-a-damn” once the permit
> obligations are covered and/or greenwash harvest reaped. This includes
> hotels, Govt and ENGOs so it’s a bigger problem than my market-capitalistic
> approach. In Jamaica at least, assuming anything less than realistically
> incentivized maintenance techs (IE: not paid as unsupervised employees,
> volunteers or do-gooders) we jokingly(?) refer to as a “worm-feeder"
> Scalable? I’d say yes, but not realistically beyond maybe a dozen or so
> hectares, not beyond what one might suggest/invest for hard-engineering for
> very high-value sites/beaches.
> Panacea? No, of course not, nor would I call propagative culture any sort
> of “restoration” (a word I don’t use), but it might be (can be) a stop-gap
> or stall to alee effects.
> Etc.
> All the best,
> Andrew
> <Email Signature.jpg>
> On Oct 1, 2015, at 7:29 AM, Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:
> Dear all:
> As someone of Peter's generation, I share some of the concerns. To this, I
> would add the trend to construct "artificial reefs", as in "we have trashed
> the real ones, but it's OK we will just build new ones."
> There are some principles we need to bear in mind:
> 1. engineers make lousy ecologists. They are solution-driven, not
> problem-solvers. We cannot engineer ourselves out of ecological messes.
> 2. in dealing with reef restoration, the three most important factors are
> water quality, water quality, and water quality, in that order.
> Far as I know, there is only one Caribbean example of reef recovery,
> albeit on a modest scale: Worthing, Barbados, where some aspects of the
> reef came back when water quality improved. (So far, I only have an
> Abstract on this, although the full paper is on my bucket list.) Given the
> present political and environmental conditions on Barbados, I doubt even
> this modest success can be scaled up. But no worries, there are suggestions
> for artificial reefs-just over there by the hotels, on the sand flats,
> where 40 years ago the classic Stearn-Scoffin carbonate balance work was
> done on a healthy reef.
> Mike
> ________________________________________
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [
> coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] on behalf of Steve Mussman [
> sealab at earthlink.net]
> Sent: September 30, 2015 3:46 PM
> To: Austin Bowden-Kerby; coral list
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Replying to Peter Sale Coral Restoration
> Dear Austin,
> I think you make some excellent points and surely many coral restoration
> efforts are providing valuable insights into how we can regenerate reefs
> damaged by local and/or global stressors. The specific project you pointed
> out (Fragments of Hope) is a prime example. My concern (coming from a
> non-scientist) reflects one of the points that Peter made in his blog and
> that is that unless we address carbon levels directly (along with the usual
> lineup of local suspects) all these good works may be for naught. Just how
> resilient and adaptive can corals become? This doesn't suggest that we
> should forsake these efforts, but we should perhaps be mindful of their
> limitations. One concern that I have is that coral restoration is being
> used by some as a reason why we need not be overly concerned about coral
> reef degradation. For example, this line of thinking has entered into the
> debate about Grand Cayman's consideration of a new cruise ship berthing
> pier. Proponents argue that even though
> a popular reef spot will have to be sacrificed, science-guided restoration
> efforts are capable of rebuilding it and therefore we can have our cake and
> eat it too. I guess that the same can be said of concerns relating to the
> impacts of rising ocean temperatures and acidification. We can engineer our
> way out of it and restore our reefs as if nothing has happened. Although
> this is not the intent of the dedicated scientists who are working on these
> projects, we should be aware that misrepresentations abound.
>      Regards,
>    Steve Mussman
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Austin Bowden-Kerby <abowdenkerby at gmail.com>
> Sent: Sep 29, 2015 4:57 PM
> To: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Replying to Peter Sale Coral Restoration
> Dear Peter,
> Regarding coral restoration, your blog may have been somewhat accurate a
> decade ago, but it is not an accurate description of coral restoration
> today.
> Most coral restoration today is being carried out by scientists and
> managers, and is focused on endangered species restoration and climate
> change resilience and adaptation.  In many places corals are being put back
> onto managed reefs where what killed them in the first place is at least
> partially solved, and where they have not returned on their own through
> natural recruitment processes even after many years.
> The remnant populations of Acropora cervicornis, after surviving disease
> outbreaks and bleaching etc., continue to lose genotypes year by year
> throughout the region, mainly due to high levels of predation.  Many of the
> remnant and resilient populations, where we fortunately collected small
> samples from 2004, are continuing to thrive in nurseries, but unfortunately
> these same genotypes have died out on the reefs.  The process of Caribbean
> Acropora demise will continue on most reefs unless and until successful
> sexual reproduction is restored in the species, and although relatively
> small scale, we have successfully created diverse breeding populations in
> our sites. (See the recent spawning at Lisa Carne's Fragments of Hope Coral
> Nurseries in Belize Facebook site).
> Good no-take MPAs in the Caribbean have not regained their lost populations
> of staghorn and elkhorn corals on their own, and as such they are damaged
> systems with key habitat-forming coral species completely missing. They are
> mere shadows of their potential, and any studies on them will therefore not
> do justice for MPAs as a fisheries management strategy. Coral restoration
> is such situations is vital, and wonderful things are beginning to happen,
> in spite of the uphill battle.
> If you read the more recent reports and literature coming out of the
> Caribbean, I hope that you will realize that most of us are not "well
> meaning but misguided people", as you and others have publically asserted
> in the past.
> Thanks and regards,
> Austin
> Message: 4
> Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2015 03:42:20 +0000
> From: Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
> Subject: [Coral-List] What can we do to save coral reefs?
> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Message-ID:
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> CY1PR1101MB121045CCAA3005C7B4BAA42DC2420 at CY1PR1101MB1210.namprd11.prod.outlook.com
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Hi listers,
> I just put up the second of two posts dealing with the impact of this mega
> el Nino, and what we can do to protect or repair coral reefs.  It includes
> an edit of Dennis Hubbard's recent cautionary comments re jumping to simple
> causal explanations and rushing out with new policy based on them.  Very
> often the simple explanation was not only simple, but incorrect.  Not
> saying do nothing, just pleading for intelligent action.
> Sorry if I make some people unhappy with this one.  It's at
> http://wp.me/p5UInC-x2
> And DO report bleaching events, as well of cases where expected bleaching
> did not occur, to coral-list.
> Peter Sale
> e-mail:                  sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>
> web:                      www.petersalebooks.com<
> http://www.petersalebooks.com>
> Twitter:                PeterSale3
> Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD
> Corals for Conservation
> P.O. Box 4649 Samabula, Fiji Islands
> https://www.facebook.com/C4Conservation
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009j6wb
> Sustainable Environmental Livelihoods Farm
> Km 20 Sigatoka Valley Road, Fiji Islands
> (679) 938-6437
> http://permacultureglobal.com/projects/1759-sustainable-environmental-livelihoods-farm-Fiji
> https://www.facebook.com/teiteifarmstay
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> Risk, Michael
> riskmj at mcmaster.ca

Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD
Corals for Conservation
P.O. Box 4649 Samabula, Fiji Islands

Sustainable Environmental Livelihoods Farm
Km 20 Sigatoka Valley Road, Fiji Islands
(679) 938-6437

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