[Coral-List] Giant barrel sponges taking over Florida's reefs (Coral-List Digest, Vol 85, Issue 5)

Rob Hilliard, imco rhilliard at imco.com.au
Tue Sep 8 13:25:44 EDT 2015

Doug, Vassil, Joseph

For fairly accurate yet unclunky, catchy terms to describe new things 
that accumulate on "unliving coral reefs", how about
'Sponge gardens adorn coral graveyards'
'Weed infested coral graveyards'
'Mud laden coral graveyards'
Whoever it was who first coined the term 'coral graveyard', it provided 
the perfect answer to the eerie and depressing feelings one gets when 
swimming over a bleached out, unrecovered reef, often replete with 
crumbling tombstones, partly-exposed skeletons, dismantled rubble 
memorials and various ghostly grey apparitions.




Robert Hilliard PhD Pg.Dip (EMS)

InterMarine Consulting Pty Ltd

Western Australia6070

Postal:PO Box 42, Mount Lawley, WA 6929

Mob:+61 427 855 485

*rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>*


*P**lease consider our environment before printing this e-mail*

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential. If you receive this 
message in error or are not the intended recipient, you should

not retain, distribute, disclose or use any of this information and you 
should destroy the e-mail and any attachments or copies.

On 08-Sep-15 6:07 PM, coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov wrote:
> Send Coral-List mailing list submissions to
> 	coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
> 	http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
> 	coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> You can reach the person managing the list at
> 	coral-list-owner at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
> than "Re: Contents of Coral-List digest...", e.g., cut and paste the
> Subject line from the individual message you are replying to. Also,
> please only include quoted text from prior posts that is necessary to
> make your point; avoid re-sending the entire Digest back to the list.
> Today's Topics:
>     1. Re: Fwd: Giant barrel sponges taking over Florida's	reefs!
>        (Douglas Fenner)
>     2. Student discount now available on coral identification
>        workshops in UK and Germany Oct 2015. (Russell Kelley)
>     3. Robot finds and kills crown-of-thorns starfish (Douglas Fenner)
>     4. Research Fellowship opportunity ARC Centre of Excellence for
>        Coral Reef Studies (Lappin, Jennifer)
>     5. Hacking the Ocean (Ove Hoegh-Guldberg)
>     6. Mass spawning in Acropora palmata in Puerto Rico (Hernandez Edwin)
>     7. Reef restoration funding sources (Melanie Webster)
>     8. Applications open for SCB Marine Small Grants Program
>        (Deadline - Oct 1st) (SCBMarine Communications)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 4 Sep 2015 09:46:12 -1100
> From: Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Fwd: Giant barrel sponges taking over
> 	Florida's	reefs!
> To: Vassil Zlatarski <vzlatarski at gmail.com>
> Cc: Coral-List Subscribers <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Message-ID:
> 	<CAOEmEkFvxomdvmDiv5H+wRNg6cKTFQ-1jG+wk2DEfbXzxYnGtg at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> Vassil,
>      Good point.  The geological reef structure was built by primarily by
> corals, or at least the corals are important as baffling to hold it
> together.  Algae often are very important contributors and can contribute
> more calcium than corals.  They are coral reefs in the same sense as a
> similar structure lifted 20 feet out of the water 100,000 years ago is a
> coral reef.  But an uplifted reef above the water does not have a living
> coral reef ecosystem on the surface.  The same is true of reefs that are
> now dominated by algae, whether the algae is macroalgae (by which I mean
> frondose or fleshy algae) or turf (by which I mean filamentous algae) or
> coralline algae or mixtures or soft corals or other things.
>       Sometimes people talk or write about how reefs may die in coming
> decades.  The geological structures won't die, though they have many living
> things in holes in the structure, I would think.  I don't think the
> geological structures are going to disappear in a few decades, either.  I
> presume that reefs in Florida that are now sponge-dominated instead of
> being coral-dominated are not accumulating more calcium deposits, likely
> they are loosing more than gaining, bioerosion likely is greater than
> calcification (unless there are algae calcifying faster than the
> bioerosion).  But I'm not as worried about the geological structure as the
> ecosystem, in the relatively short term (decades).
>        I have sympathy for Mike Risk's view of the need for something
> besides just ecologists, studying reefs.  I tend to think that with the
> vast expansion of knowledge, individuals have to specialize.  I read
> somewhere that about 1800 papers on coral reefs are being published each
> year now and the rate is increasing fast.  No one can keep up with all of
> it, and time spent outside of your specialty means less time to gain the
> knowledge to be a competitive expert in your specialty.  So trying to be a
> generalist is pretty self-defeating.  The answer is to have teams of people
> with different specialties, because as Mike rightly points out, coral reefs
> are very complex structures with many different things that require
> different specialists to study, and many reef aspects need people in
> several different specialists to study.  We already need statisticians on
> our teams.  I agree ecologists probably need to work with geologists in
> their teams more often.  I think ecologists need to consult with
> taxonomists about identifications of their favorite organisms more often,
> and geneticists need taxonomists on their teams.
>        But I also think that the coral reef crisis is an ecological crisis,
> not really a geological crisis.  Oh, it will be in a few thousand years if
> we keep this up.  But we are loosing coral reef ecosystems even if we
> aren't loosing geological structures yet.  Both provide benefits for
> humans.  But the scientific community is pretty nimble at shifting towards
> the exciting parts of science, and a lot of people see the coral reef
> crisis as important and so makes for exciting science.  Easier to get
> funding on things important to society, so some of us shift to work on
> those things.  Not a bad thing.
>        But I think you're right, Vassil, to be accurate, in some places,
> what was a coral reef ecosystem is now a sponge-algal ecosystem on top of a
> dead coral reef.  Or something like that, I'm not sure what the best name
> is.  Likely people will continue to call them "coral reefs" because that is
> a catchy name that we are all familiar with.  There is one on the south
> side of Molokai Island in Hawaii which had a wide reef flat, a reef made of
> calcium carbonate.  The geological structure of carbonate is still there,
> but the reef flat is almost completely covered with mud that has eroded off
> of agricultural fields on land.  A few tiny corals poke up through the
> mud.  I saw similar along the east side of Lanai Island in Hawaii a couple
> decades ago.  What should we call that?  Certainly that reef flat does not
> have a coral reef ecosystem.  Mud ecosystem on top of a dead coral reef is
> more like it.
>      In truth, many of the ecosystems we call coral reef ecosystems are not
> actually dominated by corals.  Corals are an important component, but not
> dominant.  True even on many reefs with very little human influence.  Of
> course humans have caused massive losses of corals on many or most of the
> world's reefs.  Of course that's bad.
>      By the way, I LIKE sponges!  Caribbean sponges are large, colorful, and
> their biology is very different and interesting.  Where I'm at in the
> Pacific, sponges are small, uncommon, and cryptic.  Nothing like the
> glorious sponges of the Caribbean.  They are not completely incompatible
> with corals.  Cozumel used to have good coral on top of the reefs, and
> fabulous sponge communities on overhangs.  Spectacular.  Wonderful part of
> the ecosystem.
>       Cheers,  Doug
> On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 12:19 AM, Vassil Zlatarski <vzlatarski at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Well, Joseph, in such case the usage of ?coral reefs? should be precised,
>> for example, "coral-limestone reefs" or ?dead-coral reefs? or
>> ?not-living-coral reefs? or in other appropriate way.
>> Best,
>> Vassil
>> Vassil Zlatarski
>> D.Sc. (Biology), Ph.D. (Geology)
>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>> From: Pawlik, Joseph <pawlikj at uncw.edu>
>> Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 5:31 AM
>> Subject: RE: [Coral-List] Giant barrel sponges taking over Florida's reefs!
>> To: Vassil Zlatarski <vzlatarski at gmail.com>
>> Agreed, Vassil,
>> But the reef was built by coral (it's limestone) -- they just aren't
>> building it anymore!
>> **************************************************************
>> Joseph R. Pawlik, Professor
>> Department of Biology and Marine Biology
>> UNCW Center for Marine Science
>> 5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
>> Wilmington, NC  28409   USA
>> pawlikj at uncw.edu; Office:(910)962-2377; Cell:(910)232-3579
>> Website: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/index.html<
>> https://mail.uncw.edu/owa/UrlBlockedError.aspx>
>> PDFs: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/pubs2.html<
>> https://mail.uncw.edu/owa/UrlBlockedError.aspx>
>> **************************************************************
>> ________________________________
>> From: Vassil Zlatarski [vzlatarski at gmail.com]
>> Sent: Wednesday, September 02, 2015 4:25 AM
>> To: Coral-List Subscribers; Pawlik, Joseph
>> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Giant barrel sponges taking over Florida's reefs!
>> Dear Coral-Listers,
>> Prof. Pawlik offered interesting paper ?Population dynamics of giant barrel
>> sponges on Florida coral reefs? and video adding to the growing evidence
>> that reef-building corals are declining and sponges are becoming the
>> dominant inhabitants of modern Caribbean benthic communities.  For the
>> fortunate researchers of coral reefs 4-5 decades ago is strange the usage
>> of ?coral reefs? for the documented now-existing situation.  Is it not in
>> reality a case of ?sponge gardens??
>> Cheers,
>> Vassil
>> Vassil N. Zlatarski
>> D.Sc. (Biology), Ph.D. (Geology)
>> On Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 10:45 AM, Pawlik, Joseph <pawlikj at uncw.edu<mailto:
>> pawlikj at uncw.edu>> wrote:
>> Greetings, Colleagues,
>> In a 12-year study just published in the Journal of Experimental Marine
>> Biology and Ecology, we report that populations of giant barrel sponges
>> have increased by 122% since 2000 on Conch Reef, off the coast of Key
>> Largo, Florida. This adds to the growing evidence that sponges are becoming
>> the dominant inhabitants of modern Caribbean reefs.  The article can be
>> downloaded for free:
>> http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1RcjD51aUK0hE
>> Giant barrel sponges (Xestospongia muta) are found throughout the
>> Caribbean, and commonly grow to the size of an oil drum or larger. Called
>> the "redwoods of the reef," these sponges can live to be hundreds, even
>> thousands of years old, based on earlier growth studies conducted by the
>> same first author, Dr. Steven McMurray.
>> A video tour of the plots on Conch Reef can be seen here:
>> https://youtu.be/qdjhm7ojGJk
>> You can see how large these sponges get in this video from the Bahamas:
>> https://youtu.be/8WaWVuGE-LM
>> Not only are the numbers of giant barrel sponges increasing, so is their
>> volume, with a 39% increase since 2000. On average, each square meter of
>> Conch Reef now has about 2 liters of barrel sponge tissue on its surface,
>> more than any other organism on the reef.  And the giant barrel sponge is
>> only one of many species of sponges that populate Caribbean coral reefs.
>> Much of the increase in the numbers of giant barrel sponges was due to
>> recruitment - the successful establishment of baby sponges. On some plots,
>> the increase in the smallest-sized barrel sponges was over 600% for the
>> period 2000-2012. And while the survival of larger barrel sponges was
>> stable for the first half of this period, it increased during the second
>> half, perhaps because of the absence of hurricanes over that time period.
>> When hurricanes pass over reefs, large sponges can be damaged and
>> dislodged, often resulting in mortality.
>> Regards,
>> **************************************************************
>> Joseph R. Pawlik, Professor,
>> Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology
>> UNCW Center for Marine Science
>> 5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
>> Wilmington, NC  28409
>> Office:(910)962-2377<tel:%28910%29962-2377>; Cell:(910)232-3579
>> <tel:%28910%29232-3579>
>> Website: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/index.html
>> PDFs: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/pubs2.html
>> Video Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/skndiver011
>> **************************************************************
>> _______________________________________________
>> Coral-List mailing list
>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto: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
>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

More information about the Coral-List mailing list