[Coral-List] coral reefs in the face of climate change

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Wed May 4 11:04:49 EDT 2016

On the issue of coral reefs and climate change, I think we have been too mild delivering the message. The scientific community in general has tried to avoid a catastrophist approach, so when we say coral reefs are dying, the public at large doesn't even blink.

There was a time we globally freaked out at the ozone hole. Even my grandma was concerned about it (and she is one of those Spanish civil war and post-war survivors who doesn't get scared that easily). Action was taken, CFC's eliminated.

We don't have much time left to avoid complete meltdown. I'd like to think we'll eventually gain some awareness and intelligence so we behave as global citizens and reduce CO2 emissions for the greater good. It's a beautiful kumbaya dream. But this is not going to happen fast enough. 

As primates, we react to fear. Global warming is a threat to our survival as we know it. The death of coral reefs is a symptom that things are getting worse really fast. We must initiate the fight-or-flight response. Get the amygdala working, so people get off their derrieres and do something. There's no alternative Earth to go to. Therefore, our only response is to fight climate change.

So here's to the well-crafted science communication messages still to come: Do something, or it's game over.

Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.
Twitter: @GrouperDoc
Blog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.com

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov> on behalf of Carin Jantzen <carin.jantzen at gmx.net>
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 6:28 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] coral reefs in the face of climate change

Dear all,

With interest I have followed the discussions on what we can do to help
dying coral reefs in the face of climate change, especially in context
of the most severe and unsettling third global bleaching event and the
subsequent mass die-off of corals and whole reefs.

We probably all agree that we, most importantly, need to act against the
ongoing climate change, meaning to reduce our Carbon-dioxide emissions
to prevent conditions from getting unbearable for all of us. What we are
facing now is just the beginning. We need to act as citizens, humans,
and as a species that like to persist on this earth – best together with
most of the other species on earth as well; not going into detail here
about biodiversity, natural resources, changing conditions in
agriculture, climate refugees or even wars...

People wish to do something, to directly help the corals right now, but
I think any attempt that works only quite locally like shading (wse
method) or extracting CO2 from the water are only a drop in the bucket.
If one, for instance, has managed to shade some corals and they really
survived – the next bleaching will wipe them out (or the one after
that). Water temperatures will continue to rise and bleaching may become
more frequent in the future.

Apart from the most urgent task to act against climate change, we need
to assist natural evolution to help coral reefs to go through the next
(tough) decades. There may be three kinds of action that could make
sense – at least to my limited understanding. However, I am aware that
they are not easy tasks, still, I think our joint efforts should work in
that direction.


    Reduce other stresses than climate change to give surviving corals
    the opportunity to recover.


    Protect corals and reefs that are less susceptible to bleaching:
    Reef areas that are, for instance, exposed to up-welling and where
    bleaching is therefore moderated, may be suitable MPAs for future
    coral havens. Reefs that feature certain coral genotypes or species
    that are less effected by bleaching may be given special status.


    Restore coral reefs by using sexual coral reproduction in order to
    promote genetic diversity, to give certain genotypes the chance to
    do better than their dying parents, and by using certain genotypes
    or species that are more likely to survive, i.e. are less
    susceptible to bleaching (or pollution etc....). This approach may
    only assist coral reefs to recover or to rehabilitate to some
    degree; instead of growing a new reef like it was before, it would -
    in the best case - maintain or restore ecological functions of a
    reef. The right place to start such an effort is most critical too.
    Best chances may be in a MPA, where natural recruitment is next to
    non-existing, but apart from that, conditions are well managed
    (regarding overfishing, pollution and so on...). And we need to work
    on larger scales too.

To which degree we want to interfere with natural evolution and to
choose certain genotypes is maybe something that could be discussed here
on the coral list. It is tempting to just say 'those corals survived,
use them to make a new reef'. We still do not know enough about the
functioning of the coral reef as a system to know what we would be
doing. Additionally, there are many examples from the past that show
that human fiddling with evolution has not always (rarely?) turned out
well... On the other hand, time presses and we may not have many choices
(and chances)...

Corals reefs are dying at an alarming rate. Their conditions will not
get better, facing the ongoing climate change, but rather worse. We need
to be very forthright about that, and think and act accordingly.

This is my personal opinion,




Dr. Carin Jantzen
Marine Ecologist & Author
SECORE Media & Public Relations

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