[Coral-List] The GBR is in trouble, but not dead

Clive Wilkinson clive.wilkinson at rrrc.org.au
Wed Mar 22 03:12:14 EDT 2017

To the List
Sometimes old fossil reefers appear out of the mist to post something (Peter S, Denny H, Gene S etc etc.)

I was interviewed many times by journalists (often about doom and gloom stories from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network). Always I offered to check facts but assured them that I would not wish to interfere with the angle or slant of the story. Many times they accepted and a few errors were corrected.

Like many people reporting on damage to coral reefs, I have wrestled with labels for damaged reefs. In the ICRS 1992 plenary the following terms were used: "declining so rapidly that localised exterminations are probable". "10 % of the ......reefs ... have been degraded beyond recognition; 30% are in a critical state such that they will be lost in 10 to 20 years; etc."  "few reefs ..30% ... will be recognisable as coral reefs beyond the next 10 to 20 years ..."

The wrestling continued in the GCRMN in the Status of Coral Reefs of the World reports: 1998 - "severely damaged or destroyed." In 2000 "lost 11% .. and a further 16% are not fully functional."

2002: "reefs ... seriously damaged during the 1998 mass coral bleaching are showing encouraging signs of slow to moderate rates of recovery." Then caveats about further bleaching. ... "16% of the world's coral reefs were effectively destroyed .."

2004: "20% of the world's coral reefs have been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery;"   ".. immediate risk of collapse through human pressures .."

2008: ".. effectively lost 19% of the original area of coral reefs;" ..."so heavily degraded as to be non-functional," .."lost the goods and services provided by 19% of the global coral reef area".

Why the long list of various quotes? That is to say I don't have the answer to the dilemma that Terry Hughes and others have in describing a coral reef that has lost most (e.g. 90%) of living corals. I have used "effectively destroyed" not dead or destroyed. A long ecological discussion of what a reef is and what has been lost will not satisfy a journalist. But I do not know the answer. Over to you who now report on coral reef degradation.

Best of luck to you (and reefs)
Clive Wilkinson

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Ellen Prager
Sent: Wednesday, 22 March 2017 12:38 AM
To: Michael Newkirk
Cc: Coral -List; Lescinsky, Halard
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] The GBR is in trouble, but not dead

Dear Michael, friends, and colleagues

As a scientist that spends much of my time focused on communicating science to the public and who works often with the media, a few comments and tips on this issue of bad headlines and misleading information.

First off, yes it is extremely frustrating! Especially when someone is misquoted - that should never happen. This was poor journalism.

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