[Coral-List] Parrotfishes and coral reef health

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Mon Feb 20 11:16:18 EST 2017

Billy, Tim, Les, others,
One of the problems with e-mail, or with a system like coral-list, is that when a group starts talking, each member chimes in on his/her own timeframe, and it becomes difficult to sort out the threads of the discussion.  I just had to read Les’s latest – the one beginning  “The problem with story-telling…” – three times before I more or less understood what he was talking about.  Les, you use Jeremy, Randy and Bob, assuming we all know which J, R, B you are referring to, and refer to their ‘doctor’ and ‘group therapy’ analogies assuming we all know what you are referring to.  I don’t (perhaps I am an outlier).  Frankly, I’m not sure I am comfortable with your own analogy of scientist interacting with stakeholders as ‘group therapy’ – I also doubt you can sell that concept to the various stakeholders including other scientists, although perhaps if you articulated what you mean more completely, I and others would understand.

I’m not rejecting the underlying ideas, just saying you have not explained them sufficiently for me to get quite what you are intending.  (I’ve also just realized that coral-list is now back in the discussion – good idea – and therefore those reading this, who have missed some meaty e-mails amongst us, must be even more confused.

If we want this thing to move forward (and I think it could be a good idea), we need to set out some goals, a structure/framework, and then get on with fleshing it out.  Alternatively, we can bat it about a bit more on coral-list before we do that (or instead of doing that).

One final thing, in raising the issue of story-telling, I was not implying there is not already growing recognition of this need, and even some good attempts to mentor graduate students in doing so.  I was suggesting that the output from reef science is only occasionally in a form with good narrative structure – especially in the peer-reviewed lit, but also in media intended for wider audience.  And Billy, you are right that stories have to fit the audience.

So, do we want to try to produce something worth publishing at this stage, or stick with coral-list a while longer to pick up further ideas and perhaps further interest?

Peter Sale

From: Billy Causey - NOAA Federal [mailto:billy.causey at noaa.gov]
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2017 10:10 AM
To: Tim McClanahan <tmcclanahan at wcs.org>
Cc: Francesco Cinelli <posi2donia at gmail.com>; Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>; Dennis Hubbard <dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu>; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Les Kaufman (lesk at bu.edu) <lesk at bu.edu>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Parrotfishes and coral reef health

Thank you for attaching these papers.  I did not abandon this conversation with you, Peter, Les, Judy and others, but was driving 415 miles from Central Florida to the Keys and could not keep up.

Speaking of Central Florida and the Keys, my wife and I have a ranch in the Middle of the State, surrounded by climate change deniers, whereas around my home in the Keys, people see the issues caused by climate change and it was the commercial fishermen that agreed with me in 1979-1980 that environmental conditions were changing.

The stories are not the same for every community, just as the impacts change (e.g. pine beetles killing pines during droughts, lengthy droughts etc) for areas like around my ranch.  Yet, people go out of their way to be critical of anyone espousing the problems with a changing climate.

I am in this for the long-haul and would like to help in some way to shape messages based on real examples to reach a broader audience.  During the GW Bush administrations I was cautioned routinely about giving talks on the cc impacts to coral reefs.  Finally, we came to agreement that I could describe what our monitoring and science was revealing, but I could not assign blame.  That gave me plenty of room in which I could operate.

Count me in on helping in any way possible!  BTW, we have a Governor in Florida that does not believe climate change is real.


Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 19, 2017, at 4:54 PM, Tim McClanahan <tmcclanahan at wcs.org<mailto:tmcclanahan at wcs.org>> wrote:
Thanks Francesco

That is interesting and probably not unlike many other reefs in the WIO.  I attached too broad surveys that will give you some context.  Unfortunately, I have not had much luck getting anyone in the Seychelles interested in the urchin story too much. Nick Graham may start to have more interest as we work together on similar problems and now that he is lead author on an urchin-related paper, he may start to measure these things.  The urchin data in the Current Biology paper is mine collected in many other sites.


On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 1:50 AM, Francesco Cinelli <posi2donia at gmail.com<mailto:posi2donia at gmail.com>> wrote:
Dear friends,
I spent last week in the Seychelles. I went snorkeling in Parslin, La Digue, and some other small islands. I saw only completely dead reef. Someone understands the reason for this and what were the causes of recent or past and if someone is doing something for this? The bottom is completely flooded with sea urchins and most of the fish is represented by herbivores. I was shocked. I know very well the Maldives, the Chagos islands and of course the Red Sea, but I've never seen a situation similar to that of the Seychelles. I add some photos. Francis

Prof. Francesco L. CINELLI
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University of Pisa - Italy
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2017-02-18 17:31 GMT+01:00 Billy Causey - NOAA Federal <billy.causey at noaa.gov<mailto:billy.causey at noaa.gov>>:
You, Judy and Tim, and a few others, have been right on track. I have
been following this thread and communication and find some
explanations way off the mark.

In my estimation, coral decline continues to be the synergy between
the impacts of climate change, land-based sources if pollution,
habitat loss and degradation and overfishing.  Considering that
overfishing affects the food chain and removal of important reef
species such as the grazers.  And, I don't have time to start on the
problems of fish traps and how they can remove important reef species
that make up a robust reef fish community.

Personally, I have added a fifth cause of reef community decline and
in the Wider Caribbean that is Lionfish.

Keep the good messages pouring in Peter, Judy and Tim and others.


Sent from my iPhone

> On Feb 17, 2017, at 5:25 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>> wrote:
> Kudos to Tim McClanahan, in particular, for quietly reintroducing a touch of realism into this discussion.  Coral reef decline is proceeding around the world, but seems to me to be particularly severe in the Caribbean.  (Perhaps that is because of the relatively small number of primary reef builders in that system, some of which have been savagely hit by disease.)  The decline is caused by many concurrent stressors (Judy Lang's post hit most of them in one sentence).  The relative importance of these stressors varies from place to place, and from time to time.  The long-term trajectory looks very bleak.
> I doubt any of you disagree with my first paragraph.  But if we reef scientists, and particularly the reef ecologists amongst us, cannot remember that this is a case of simultaneous, possibly synergistic, stressors acting in different ways on different species when we discuss what is happening, how can we expect other people to comprehend the magnitude of the problem?  To spend lines and lines of text on coral-list debating whether or not parrotfish grazing is to blame (as if one factor will be the leading cause of decline across time and space) cheapens the discussion and reduces any chance of articulating clearly what is needed to gain some improvement.  We can all do better.
> And please, let us stop reducing the concept of herbivory, by parrotfishes, sea urchins or anybody else, to a simple binary interaction between the grazer and the macroalgae, with the corals waiting patiently on the outcome..  What utter nonsense.  It's been well documented in numerous marine environments that algae of different species respond differently to grazing pressure.  Most macroalgae escape most of the herbivore guild through growth, so that the suite of herbivores that might keep a bare site free of anything other than a fine algal turf is quite incapable of returning a lush stand of macroalgae to that fine turf state.  Different species of macroalgae are differentially palatable to different species of herbivore, are differentially impacted by pollution, by nutrients, by storms.  I could go on.  Even understanding the algal-herbivore interaction requires much more subtle ecological insights than are evident when all parrotfishes and all algae are considered inte
> angeable.  If we do not improve the way in which we talk about the loss of living coral on our coral reefs, we diminish the chance of really understanding what is happening, or potentially discovering effective management actions.  We are all capable of elevating the level of discourse.  If the world is destined to lose most of its coral reefs this century, I'd like to think that at minimum, we had at least learned what was happening, and could articulate what would have been needed to prevent that eventual demise.  We cannot learn from our mistakes without understanding clearly what has happened, and the eventual demise of coral reefs, if it does happen, needs to become a teachable moment.
> Peter Sale
> University of Windsor
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Tim McClanahan, PhD
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<Graham et al. Curr Biol 2017 cover.pdf>

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