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

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Sat May 6 15:53:47 EDT 2017

I’m a fishery biologist/aquaculturist from the old days whencomputers filled entire rooms, climate change meant the difference betweensummer and winter, and the cure for pollution was solution. So I'm limited, but I try to keepup as much as I can and I do have a comment on pollution. In my opinion theworst kind of pollution is, or soon will be, a kind of chemical pollution thatis now ubiquitous in aquatic environments, and the kind that destroys aquatic lifein the larval stages or affects reproduction; and that you can’t see, taste,feel, smell, or even measure by “ordinary chemical analysis”. It is a part of thethousands of chemical compounds that exist in our waters in concentrations ofppm, ppb, and even ppt, the effluent of our affluent societies, that can and doaffect development and reproduction of many aquatic species and can reduce and destroythe reproductive capacity of many fish and invertebrates, and, along withplastic debris, these endocrine disrupting chemicals create a destructive pollution is ever increasingin our aquatic environments. When a fish kill occurs, and I remember some very extensivefish kills in Tampa Bay and along the west Florida coast in the 1960s, youreally know that a fish kill has occurred, the beaches are covered with deadfish, the smell is horrendous, and the water is fish soup. It takes a long timefor the environment to recover from such an event. But when there is an evenmore devastating “kill” of marine species that affects primarily just thelarvae and/or reproductive organs of adults, there is no obvious evidence thatsuch a kill has taken place, or is taking place. It is only a few years laterwhen the question, “What happened to all the fish (or coral reefs) that used tobe here?” becomes a public wonderment and a subject for scientific investigation.And for the most part, very little can be done about it and the phenomena ofchanging base lines pushes the problems far into the past and the glory of what was becomeslegend.  A case in point, I have been working for years ondevelopment of the technology for hatchery culture of the sea urchin Diademaantillarum. What better to occupy the retirement of an old marine biologist?Anyway, as you know, the larval development of sea urchins is complex. Diademalarvae are long lived, the larval period can extend for 35 days to 55 days,with most clocking in at about 42 to 45 days. Around 20 days the rudiment, theearly structure of the juvenile urchin, has formed to the degree that it can berecognized in the larvae on the left, dorsal side of the gut. Then at about themid 20 days, the rudiment has developed early tube feet and these tube feetbegin to extend externally through the vestibule on the side of the larvae. Inanother 20 days or so the rudiment is mature, the larvae/rudiment becomes competent,and settlement and metamorphosis into an early juvenile takes place, an amazingtransformation from a pelagic into a benthic organism. It’s a long story, but from 2009 to 2012 after the detailsof small scale culture were worked out, competent larvae and early juveniles culminatedalmost every rearing run, I had survival to adults and even to the 3rdgeneration of cultured Diadema. At that point the work revolved around survivaland growth of the early juveniles. Then quite suddenly in the early fall of2012 the larvae would no longer form rudiments. Sometimes seemingly earlyrudiment tissue would form, but would never develop into recognizable earlyrudiments. This also occurred at the same time at the Mote Tropical ResearchLaboratory 50 miles down the keys from my little lab. Dave Vaughan was using largeculture vessels, 1500 L to my little 50 L units, and was working with thousandsof early juveniles. From 2012 to 2015, through many rearing runs, no matterwhat I did with the Florida Bay water off my dock, I could not get larvae toform rudiments. Then in January of 2015 I split a rearing run between twoculture vessels, one with Florida Bay water and one with artificial sea water. Noneof the larvae in the Florida Bay water formed rudiments and almost all of thelarvae in the artificial sea water did form rudiments. A recent rearing run,spawn of February 1, 2017, with Florida Bay water again resulted in no larvaeforming rudiments.. There is much more to the story of my culture work withDiadema, and much more research needs to be to done on this, but this quick reviewserves as one more indication that there are serious problems with our natural watersthat cannot be seen, that are very difficult to research, and that are havingdrastic effects upon the reproduction of fish and invertebrates in ournearshore and perhaps also offshore waters, and it is another problem of our owndoing.  No matter how we try to spin it, climate change thatproduces warming and more acidic waters is a real and devastating problem affecting coral reefsworldwide. Long term solutions to these problems must be developed and enactedif coral reefs and many other elements of our environments are to survive forthe not too distant future of humanity. However, the effects of chemicalpollutants, and plastics, are also real and of worldwide consequence andgrowing rapidly, and we must also resolve this problem, hopefully we still can.
Martin Moe

    On Friday, May 5, 2017 3:58 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:

Not quite.  It is correct to consider anyone who works diligently at solving local coral reef issues while actively disputing the need to be concerned about climate change as woefully shortsighted.  But someone working diligently on let's say local reef pollution, who is not expressing an opinion, one way or the other, about effects of climate change, may simply be doing the best that he/she can with the resources and soap boxes available to her/him.  I'd prefer not to disparage good efforts, although I think I'd want to know more about that individual's understanding, and try to help if I found out he/she was unaware of how climate change might well eliminate even well-managed reefs.

Last from me for a few days.

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Mussman [mailto:sealab at earthlink.net] 
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 12:57 PM
To: Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Evidence that ocean warming has caused most Caribbean coral loss

Got that Peter, so am I wrong to consider efforts which focus solely on locally sourced insults to coral reefs while (seemingly) designedly ignoring the broader impacts of GHGs (climate change, CO2, warming oceans) to be woefully short-sighted? In other words, isn't it the position of the coral science community that even if we effectively address over-fishing, land-based pollutants, plastic debris, lionfish invasions, sunscreen contaminates, etc..., on the local level, we are still likely to lose many of those same coral reefs around the world to warming ocean temperatures (and eventually OA) if climate change is left unabated? That has been my understanding, but I've not read every study to date and perhaps I have misinterpreted and misrepresented the intent of the consensus statement that came out of the ICRS (International Coral Reef Symposium) in 2012.  Regards and thanks for your patience, Steve

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