[Coral-List] Evidence that ocean warming has caused most Caribbean coral loss

Pedro M Alcolado gmalcolado at gmail.com
Thu May 4 15:51:53 EDT 2017

Excellent, Peter!  I would mention the lionfish invasion of the
Caribbean. Also the Diadema die-off ( in spite of some but maybe still
unsufficient recovery in some places. I wonder if there are areaswhere
Diadema populations fully recovered).

On 5/4/17, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:
> Wow!
> I've been watching and reading.  Multiple posts on 'Evidence that ocean
> warming has caused most Caribbean coral loss", many of them long and
> thoughtful, but people are starting to talk past one another.  There are
> really three questions being thought about (at least three): 1) What factors
> have been responsible for the dramatic loss of corals on Caribbean reefs in
> recent years (last 50 or so) and how do they interact? 2) What are the
> consequences if the current trend continues? And 3) What should we do about
> it (if we assume what is happening is 'bad' and 'needs fixing')?  Additional
> questions come to mind and have likely been alluded to in some of the
> numerous posts on the topic.  Such as a) Is the Caribbean similar to, or
> different from the Indo-Pacific in how coral loss has occurred? b) When did
> serious coral loss start?  And so on.
> The first question about causes and their interactions is intrinsically
> interesting to scientists, but perhaps of less interest to others.  As
> scientists we 'need' to understand the details, and knowing the details can
> be very helpful in devising management solutions.  Most of the posts have
> centered predominantly on this question.  May I humbly suggest that the
> discussion has been generating a lot more smoke and less light than it would
> have if we had begun by recognizing a) that it is quite unlikely that a
> single factor has been overwhelmingly important as the cause of coral loss,
> and b) that the relative importance of factors, and probably also the nature
> of their interactions will vary in space and in time -- and the Caribbean is
> plenty large enough to include some of this heterogeneity.  If we want to
> answer this first question, we have got to consider it at specific times and
> places, and not seek a single answer applicable across the Caribbean and
> across all times.  (Ha
>  ving said that, I remain persuaded by John Bruno's original blog post that
> warming has been 'a major factor' in coral decline 'for some time' across
> the Caribbean.)
> If we need to point fingers, we could pick on John Bruno, whose initial post
> with this subject line seemed to be arguing that ocean warming was 'the
> prime cause' across the Caribbean.  As the discussion has gone on, there has
> been a progressive increase in the apparent desire to find a Caribbean-wide
> causal pattern.  It may, but it probably does not exist because the Florida
> Keys are not Bonaire, Barbados, or Bimini (forgive me the urge to be
> alliterative).
> The second question has hardly been addressed in any posts, presumably
> because we all agree that coral loss is bad for reefs and for coastal
> communities.  But frankly, I'd love to learn how much less effective are
> today's Caribbean reefs at providing fishery resources or protecting
> coastlines than were the reefs of 50 or 100 years ago.  And also, what will
> be the trajectory in ecological 'value' of reefs if they continue to lose
> coral (on human timescales, please).
> The third question, the one most non-scientists might identify as most
> important, does depend on how we answer the first question.  If warming now
> appears to be becoming substantially important as a cause (whether or not it
> was important in the past), we need to address that issue.  We cannot stop
> el Nino (so far as I know), but we can stop increasing the concentration of
> GHGs in the atmosphere, and could start to reduce them if the effort to
> curtail emissions was aggressive enough.  I doubt we can do anything locally
> on ocean temperature, although I suspect some crazy engineers will want to
> try.
> If we decide that pollution (of specified kinds, please) is important
> everywhere, or even in just some locations, we will need to control/reduce
> that pollution.  If overfishing is a chief culprit, we will need to start
> fishing sustainably.  And so on.  Just as I suspect the particular mix of
> currently important causes of coral loss will vary spatially, the particular
> mix of efforts to correct the situation must also vary.  Working globally to
> cut GHG emissions does not preclude simultaneously working locally on
> specific mixes of other factors.  What we need to avoid is the presumption
> that there is a silver bullet -- a single, easy-to-understand solution that
> will solve the problem of coral loss in all locations, preferably overnight
> with no substantial costs.
> Two final thoughts:  1) If some of us 'have to' conclude that pollution is
> the (or an) important cause of coral loss,  GHG emissions are a form of
> pollution and ocean warming is currently a consequence of this pollution.
> Yes, pollution really is the major causal factor.  (On the other hand, to
> pretend pollution is 'unimportant' simply in order to make 'warming'
> overwhelmingly important, suggests people have been closing their eyes when
> near centers of human activity.)  And 2) CO2 is implicated both as a GHG
> causing warming, and as the cause of ocean acidification.  While I think the
> evidence for any significant coral loss having already occurred due to OA is
> slim to nonexistent, drawing a distinction between CO2 and warming as
> putative causes of coral loss is disingenuous and will convey a confused
> message to the public.
> Peter Sale
> www.petersalebooks.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of
> coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Sent: Thursday, May 4, 2017 11:27 AM
> Today's Topics:
>    1. Re: Evidence that ocean warming has caused most	Caribbean
>       coral loss (Ulf Erlingsson)
>    2. Re: Evidence that ocean warming has caused most	Caribbean
>       coral loss (Bruno, John)
>    3. Re: Evidence that ocean warming has caused most Caribbean
>       coral loss (Pedro M Alcolado)
>       (Robin T Smith PhD)
>    5. Re: Evidence that ocean warming has caused most	Caribbean
>       coral loss (Dennis Hubbard)
> *
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