[Coral-List] Coral mortality in a warmer and acidified ocean

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 8 11:31:13 EST 2017

Dear Mike,

I take no issue with any "messenger" posting a link to an "interesting paper" for listers to read and judge solely on its merits. However, in this case, the paper was not left to stand on its own merits. It was presented with a review from a questionable source that included a conclusion which appears to misrepresent the findings. According to the lead author, although "coral have potential to cope with climate change (Acrpora lineage lesson) . . . this does not mean that they will cope if changes are too drastic, too fast... " In my opinion, the review from CO2 Science clearly distorts this central point and therefore brings into question the intent and motivation involved. As for the prioritization of major threats, I may have overstated the facts, but I look to the ICRS Consensus Statement that came out in 2012 for guidance on arranging current threat designations. 

Sorry for dragging this out.


Sent from my iPad
> On Feb 7, 2017, at 3:39 PM, Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:
> Hello Steve.
> This thread has gone on for a while, partly in a circular fashion, and probably for too long. Thank you for your response, and thank you for taking the time to read the paper. (In my opinion, some early responders had failed to do that.)
> I thought I had made myself abundantly clear-evidently I failed. Let me try again.
> I am well aware of the garbage that comes out of sites like CO2 Science. I know some of their funding sources, I know their slant. Hell has no pit deep enough, etc. But we must not make the error of behaving as they do, shooting messengers and judging guilt by association. If Gene is kind enough (or perverse enough!) to post  a link to an interesting paper, then it is on us to read that paper and judge it solely on its merits.
> As far as the paper, and the comments from the author: sure. Self-evident. My focus was not on whether Acropora will survive in the future, but the implications of the research to the recent extinction event. (I used "extinction event" in a report I co-authored for NOAA, describing the Florida situation >10 years ago-that phrase was removed by the admin.)
> I have worked on threats to reefs for some decades now, and was unaware the major threats had been prioritized. I wonder if you would be kind enough to point me to a site where general agreement has been reached, based on good science, and suitable mitigation mechanisms proposed?
> The reason I raise this point is-the header to this thread, "warmer and acidified oceans." I would argue that most of the coral deaths we have seen so far-repeat, so far-have been caused neither by warmer waters nor by acidic oceans. The paper we are discussing speaks directly to this issue.
> Mike
> ________________________________________
> From: Steve Mussman [sealab at earthlink.net]
> Sent: February 7, 2017 2:18 PM
> To: Risk, Michael
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov;  Pedro H. Rodríguez
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral mortality in a warmer and acidified ocean
> Dear Mike,
> I read "the freakin paper" and don't take issue with it, but the conclusions or "take home message" reached in the review by CO2 Science (to which Gene made reference) is another matter all together. That is what I'm objecting to. As we have established, CO2 Science is a questionable source and therefore their assessment should be considered suspect as should anyone who repeatedly uses them in citations. To be sure that my interpretation of the paper was correct, I contacted the lead author of the study to determine if he agreed with CO2 Science's analysis of the paper and it appears that he clearly takes issue with their conclusions.  This is how he explained it to me: (I have his permission to quote) " . . . we have a proof that phylogenetic lineage of Acropora was stable through long period of radical changes of the seawater chemistry. We observe exactly the same biomineralization style (mostly physiological control), the same calcium carbonate polymorphism of the skeleton - all suggest  ability of this coral to adopt to the changes. HOWEVER, we are talking about Acropora, the richest coral genus of modern reefs - great biodiversity, also in the past. So actually we don't know how many individual species went extinct because of these seawater chemistry changes. Of course corals are threatened by contemporary climate change and associated pH levels. But the fossil record provides arguments, that if biodiversity is large enough, corals (like Acropora) may ultimately survive even pretty severe climate change. It's like bacterial potential to cope with antibiotics: millions will be killed but few will survive and will preserve genetic information of this lineage. To sum up, I think coral have potential to cope with climate change (Acrpora lineage lesson) but this does not mean that they will cope if changes are too drastic, too fast... "  As I see it, this is in line with all the science that I have read. I also think that the marine sciences have already clearly identified and prioritized the major threats involved. In my opinion, It's time we acted on it.
> Regards,
> Steve

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