[Coral-List] reef resilience, hypothesis testing, and the need to know one's animals

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Mon May 23 16:28:42 EDT 2016

    Your views on the field biologists and the lab scientists has a
parallel in an old article by Chuck Birkeland, which supports what you say.

Birkeland, C.  2009.  Important roles of natural history in ecology.
Galaxea, Journal of Coral Reef Studies 11: 59-66.

    As Chuck points out, if you don't know the natural history of what the
organisms are doing, you can get the interpretation of the fancy technical
data wrong.

Cheers,  Doug

On Sun, May 22, 2016 at 3:47 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:

> Hi Listers,
> A couple of weeks ago, Joe Pawlik drew attention to a new paper of his in
> BioScience.  I read it, read a little bit further, and was prompted to put
> some thoughts on my blog, mainly about how we have to know our study
> organisms or ecosystems well if we are to be able to generate, and then
> test hypotheses about them.  I think Pawlik's paper, and the 2012 one by
> Roff and Mumby make clear that we still have numerous competing hypotheses
> to account for the failures of reef resilience following disturbances that
> lead to loss of coral cover, and far more variation from place to place
> than would ever be apparent when reading accounts of what I call the
> herbivore-mediated hypothesis of coral dominance.
> I fear, rightly or wrongly, that our ability to generate and test
> hypotheses about coral reefs is getting weaker, at the very time we need it
> to be getting stronger, because of the general down-grading of field time
> in undergraduate and graduate education, plus an appalling erosion of basic
> biological knowledge because that is considered old-fashioned and
> unnecessary.  (I also admit I learned some new things (for me) about
> sponges after reading the Pawlik paper!)
> Anyhow, my thoughts are here: http://www.petersalebooks.com/?p=2237
> I hope this does not annoy, because I do not want to have to wear a
> bullet-proof vest under my aloha shirt in Honolulu next month.  I'll be
> very interested to talk to people about this topic, and also about your
> views on the fate of coral reefs over the next few decades during ICRS.
> Note that my blog post includes the statement that it is precisely because
> coral reef ecology is relatively strong as ecology goes that I feel free to
> demand it get stronger.  As I conclude at the end, careful, detailed
> monitoring of the gradual loss of coral cover across the reefs of the
> world, without any success in building understanding of why and how, would
> simply be a time-consuming effort to document the demise of one part of
> Earth's biodiversity, a description of a part of the sixth extinction.  Not
> of any great value once the extinction is over!
> Peter Sale
> Distinguished University Professor (Emeritus)
> University of Windsor
> e-mail:                  sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>
> web:                      www.petersalebooks.com<
> http://www.petersalebooks.com/>
> Twitter:                @PeterSale3
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Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
"have regulator, will travel"
PO Box 7390
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phone 1 684 622-7084

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