[Coral-List] 50 Reefs Initiative

Robert Nowicki rnowicki at mote.org
Fri Mar 3 11:32:08 EST 2017

This is a really stimulating discussion.

I can think of a few reef properties that would be important to strive to
conserve across the planet:

1) *Genetic and species diversity (and endemism): *We will need to spread
out conservation efforts across the globe to be able to conserve as many
species of corals and coral dependent species as possible.
2) *Resilience, resistance to disturbance: *Under this category probably
fall the "pristine", hyper-remote reefs of the pacific atolls and a few
other places like Ningaloo Reef in Australia- the goal here being to save
reefs that have a maximal chance of not only surviving, but showing us what
natural processes are actually important to structuring unimpacted reefs.
These might be the ideal Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) reefs to use
as future conservation and restoration models. I'm sure there are many more
angles to this one and folks would have many other candidates to add to the
3) *Economic or social importance: *Reefs like those immediately adjacent
to population centers that *rely *on them for food or stability.  These
reefs may be among the hardest to save, but with among the greatest reward
if successful.  If they are able to be conserved, it is also a huge win for
coral reef conservation generally, by exhibiting that even uphill battles
can result in victory.
4) *Reefs we already know a lot about: *There's still a lot we don't know
about coral reef restoration and conservation.  As such I think there is
value in adding some reefs to the list that, while not particularly
pristine or economically valuable, may be the "guinea pigs" in conservation
efforts.  By figuring out what works and what doesn't on these "practice
reefs", we might be able to accelerate our conservation success on reefs
that fit in the other categories.
5) *Cultural icons: *On this list would be cultural icons that have
particular national or international significance.  The one that
immediately comes to mind is the GBR.  Of course the GBR is huge, but the
important fact is that including reefs that nations or the global community
can recognize and *take pride in* may really help us with the social
capital needed to keep steam on what will be an ongoing effort.

I'm sure there are many more categories, and I am curious to hear what
people think of these ones.

As for "50" reefs, I have been on the fence for a few days but I think I
may be coming around to this number.  Setting 50 reefs as a baseline has
some advantages- namely that starting small allows us to shift the baseline
up, making the initial effort a success.  From there, we could expand to
another 50.  If instead we try to conserve 250 reefs and fail with 150 of
them (still saving the same 100 reefs as the first scenario), the story
becomes one of failure, not success.  I think there are some definite
lessons we could pull from social science and psychology to make sure an
effort like the 50 reefs initiative has as high a chance of success as

Curious to hear everyone's thoughts.  Thanks for reading.

Dr. Rob Nowicki

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Mote Tropical Research Laboratory
24244 Overseas Highway
Summerland Key, FL 33042

On Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 11:33 AM, Matt Nolan <mpnolan at lbl.gov> wrote:

> Another important "companion" list of 50 reefs may be reefs who have
> some bonafide measurable economic value to the surrounding communities
> but are in danger of being destroyed to the point of no longer being
> of value.
> Reefs that would likely end up being  the concrete examples of
> destroyed due to cause A, destroyed due to B, etc.
> Communities where as the reefs are destroyed the economic  harm done
> as as result of there destruction can be measured.
> It would become the Handbook of Failure.
> ------------------------------
>  I am unfamiliar with the protect/preserve 50 reefs effort.
> However, there are advantages to be gained if governments have to
> compete to get "their" reefs on the list.  Although the scientific
> community may have good metrics for a purely scientific placement on
> the list I think one would be wise to have some subset of them
> be politically suggested as the resources allocated to aiding the
> rescue effort may be enhanced due to competition to be on the list.
> --------------------------
> A parallel effort may be a list of shame.  It was obvious but nothing
> was done.  Look at the awful result and the failures. Potential
> resources to help save what is left may be gained by competition to
> not be on this list.  With potential to be removed if some subsequent
> positive behaviours was provided to serve as reparation.
> My opinion is the science of economics and psychology will be more
> important than science of reefs if the competition for the resources
> needed is to be won.
> So ask yourself when was the last time you reached out to your
> economics/psychology colleagues and posed the problem to them.
> Life is competition.
> For instance, one might expect the economics scientist
> to suggest some really obvious candidates for the list that should be
> initially left off because they are more likely to be negotiated on to
> the list with a positive effect on the size of the resources to
> implement solutions increases.
> On Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 6:49 AM, Carin Jantzen <carin.jantzen at gmx.net>
> wrote:
> > Hi Nadia and all the rest,
> >
> > I really do appreciate your response, I am totally with you!
> >
> > This initiative is a very brave one, I think, to be realistic while
> > being realistic will make you a doom teller for many is not easy. The
> > more I respect the way they did it (great outreach too!), and in my
> > opinion you are right, the public will rather see it as good news
> > 'something will be done, now they know what to do'.
> >
> > In a way, I assume you can never discus enough how do realize such an
> > effort and there is so much one needs to consider, when making such
> > choices, but at one point, you need to do it. And yes, we probably don’t
> > know enough (maybe we will never...) to make sure it is the right
> > choice. But choices we will need to make. And many more to come. What to
> > protect, which species to take care of... I really wished this would be
> > different, but we must also say goodbye to the naive thinking 'in one
> > way or the other things wont end up too bad'. Even in best case
> > scenarios regarding slowing down climate change, we will have a lot of
> > challenges coming up. Not 'only' the bad status of our environment, but
> > climate refugees, wars of water and whatever grim threats we will have
> > to face...
> >
> > Of course, I dont suggest to sit there and do nothing. No, we need to
> > fight, like never before, however, we need to be realistic in doing so.
> > We will also have to make decisions what to fight for, because we wont
> > be able to safe all that would be worth saving. And in doing so, we will
> > know that some of our decisions will be wrong.
> >
> > I was very touched by what James Balog said about climate change in
> > 'chasing ice': that we have managed to change the chemistry of the air
> > we are breathing. It always reminds me about the extent of what we have
> > done to our planet. Keeping this in mind, we need to act and try to safe
> > what we can, while we can.
> >
> > Best,
> >
> > Carin
> >
> > Am 01.03.2017 um 22:59 schrieb Nadia Jogee:
> >> Hi All,
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> I too am responding due to the ‘Speak Up’ thread. I am an early career
> >> conservationist and therefore often feel intimidated (for good reason)
> by
> >> the discussions on this thread despite always reading them. So here I am
> >> speaking up.
> >>
> >>
> >> As for the 50 reefs initiative I must say I’m on the fence. As
> previously
> >> discussed there are many pros and cons.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> I feel strongly that we must accept that the world is changing and we do
> >> not have an infinite supply of resources. Therefore our efforts must be
> >> focused on the areas where they will be most effective. Yet, I can see
> that
> >> disregarding 90% of our world's reefs seems incredibly pessimistic.
> These
> >> issues have been discussed in depth in previous responses so I won’t
> >> reiterate what has been said. What I will do is just add a couple of
> >> comments.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> As well as my academic career I have spent time working in public
> >> aquariums. I feel strongly that in order to make any real conservation
> >> impact we must impress upon the public WHY it is important to protect
> >> ecosystems. Without funding from wealthier countries, countless projects
> >> around the world (and not just coral related) would not be occurring.
> >> However, people need a reason to invest and to lobby their governments
> into
> >> caring and contributing. Now, I can’t speak for every country, but I
> feel I
> >> can comment about the British public. People feel disillusioned by
> hearing
> >> how dire the situation is. They want to hear good news; they like to
> hear
> >> success stories. Unlike the research community I generally feel the
> public
> >> won’t think about the other 90%, I may be wrong here, but I think
> they’ll
> >> hear that we’re saving the ’50 most pristine reefs’ and feel good about
> >> that. Saying we need to save ‘ALL reefs’ sounds like an undoable task,
> but
> >> the 50 most pristine, ‘well ok, that’s achievable!’ (Especially
> considering
> >> I once asked a group of 30 university undergrads how many reefs they
> >> thought there were in the world and the average answer was around 50!)
> >> They’ll feel like we’re getting somewhere, rather than constantly
> telling
> >> them doom and gloom. That I think is a good thing and I think that the
> 50
> >> Reefs initiative could just be the start of a much wider project. With
> the
> >> correct public backing it can surely be expanded.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Secondly, I would point out that although I don’t know how exactly they
> are
> >> going to assess which are the 50 they will be focusing on, I feel that
> not
> >> all 50 should tick the same boxes. We need a variation. We should choose
> >> reefs that are currently showing no signs of bleaching, but not so
> >> economically important, whilst working with reefs that are being
> bleached
> >> that are economically important. It would seem foolish and insulting to
> >> ignore the millions of people who rely on reefs that are being damaged
> >> severely. Yet I see it as critical to protect reefs that may act as
> refugia
> >> for future reefs, even if corals do not expand from those geographical
> >> regions for millennia.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> So as I say I’m on the fence with this one, but keen to see how the
> project
> >> will develop. I also say good luck to the team pursuing this endeavor,
> any
> >> publicity and conservation efforts is much needed and admired. As a
> >> community we should be supportive of one another, sharing information
> and
> >> offering constructive advice. Of all the sciences, conservation science
> is
> >> one of those that can do without the selfish needs to publish first,
> which
> >> I have seen leads to lack of cooperation. Instead we need to be
> supportive
> >> of others’ projects as long as we can see some worth and there’s no
> doubt
> >> that the 50 Reefs project has much.  (Though I appreciate as an early
> >> career conservationist my mortgage doesn’t depend on the pressure to
> >> publish, only my chances of a PhD studentship!)
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Best wishes,
> >>
> >> Nadia
> >>
> >
> > --
> > Dr. Carin Jantzen
> > Marine Ecologist & Author
> > SECORE Media & Public Relations
> >
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