[Coral-List] Thoughts on coral decline and the future.

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Wed May 17 22:45:52 EDT 2017

    I have to disagree with one small part of your message, where you say,

"Re dust: I am sure Gene can respond much better than I can. I think he has
   an  excellent  point,  and  I don’t for the life of me see why so many
   biologists  refuse to consider it. You are correct, it “works” for the

I find it hard to imagine that African dust is beneficial to Caribbean
reefs or people, or even that it is neutral.  However, it is not
necessarily the cause of everything that happened in the Caribbean, during
a period when the dust increased.  I've argued rather extensively with Gene
in the past that the pattern of spread of the Diadema urchin mortality as
it spread around the Caribbean, following current patterns, with mortality
at any one site taking only about a week, yet the mortality event taking an
entire year to move around the Caribbean, does not fit with the pattern of
very large clouds of dust periodically covering much or all of the
Caribbean simultaneously.  That doesn't seem to slow Gene's love of
coincidences and attributing all problems of marine life in the Caribbean
to African dust.  Maybe the African dust hypothesis works for some things,
but not everything that Gene advocates.  Coincidence doesn't prove
causality.    Cheers,  Doug

On Sat, May 13, 2017 at 11:51 AM, Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

>    Hello Thomas.
>    Thank  you  for your response. I have no answers, just a basketfull of
>    concerns. I wonder if my grandchildren (3, so far) will ever see
> anything
>    like the reefs that I have seen.
>    I would question your assertion that global changes have already
> outstripped
>    land-based stresses. Yes, we hear depressing stories of bleaching. Right
>    now,  we  do  not know what the pace of recovery will be. We know that
>    nutrients slow that recovery (Wooldridge and Done-great to see Terry
> still
>    trucking along). Michael Schleyer, a good friend of mine and a top
> scientist
>    working in difficult conditions, recently emailed me (Mike, hope
> quoting you
>    is OK-too late now!) “I have had the good fortune of visiting remote
> reefs
>    such as the Chagos, Glorieuses and Europa and, while they have all been
>    whacked by bleaching, their recovery has been remarkable.” I would also
>    direct  you  to his excellent new paper, Porter and Schleyer 2017 (DOI
>    10.1007/s00338-016-1531-z.)  This  describes another set of reefs on a
>    downward trajectory off the coast of South Africa-but in this case, the
>    water temperature went down, not up. Mike tells me he had an awful time
>    getting  this  accepted,  which  given  the mindset of many coral reef
>    biologists, I do not doubt for a second.
>    Another paper that had a difficult delivery is Tomascik et al. 1996
> (Coral
>    Reefs 15: 169). Briefly: a lava flow entered a bay in the Banda
> Islands, in
>    eastern Indonesia, with much hissing and boiling. The locals now call
> that
>    Hot Water Bay (Air Panas). Five years later, the lava flow had greater
> than
>    60% coral cover, with tabulate corals almost a meter in diameter. Tom
> and
>    his co-authors (Rob van Woesick and Tom’s wife, Anmarie Mah) had a
> heckuva
>    time with this one, because there was great resistance to the idea that
>    corals could grow so quickly in such a seriously overfished
> environment. The
>    answer, of course, is that the water is dead clean, wonderfully
> clear-close
>    to the best diving of my life.
>    Before anyone tries to tell me of widespread death of Indo Pacific reefs
>    from global change, I would like to be reassured that they had read Tom
>    Tomascik’s work, and Evan Edinger’s, and had spent some time diving the
>    beautiful (not) reefs next to Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta… You get the
>    picture.
>    Re dust: I am sure Gene can respond much better than I can. I think he
> has
>    an  excellent  point,  and  I don’t for the life of me see why so many
>    biologists  refuse to consider it. You are correct, it “works” for the
>    Caribbean.  Previous Caribbean reefs must have faced input of dust and
>    survived, but-the Sahara is growing, which means the rate of dust
> production
>    is going up. And of course there are truly enormous dust storms that
> come
>    off the Arabian Plate over into the Gulf.
>    In short, no matter who “wins” this race, we won’t like the outcome.
>    Continuing on this depressing vein: the sea level rise we are seeing
> now is
>    almost at the limits of upward reef accumulation (read Dennis Hubbard’s
>    stuff). This rate is basically the calm before the storm. Greenland has
> yet
>    to destabilize, although there is meltwater running underneath the ice..
> Much
>    of  the  land  ice  in  Antarctica continues to shrink, but not as yet
>    catastrophically. The lesson of the past is that, during
> meltwater-driven
>    transgressions, rises in sea level can be rapid and episodic. Remember
> that
>    Nature paper my wife wrote (urk, 20 years ago) showing that the Gulf
> Stream
>    started to shut down in less than 4 years. (My wife is no longer in
> science.
>    She told me "there are a lot of nasty people there, and that may include
>    you.")
>    We really are entering into the unknown, and you are correct: the recent
>    Syrian refugee problem will look like a flea bite. We need to do the
> best we
>    can: set examples in our personal life, and be politically active. And
> hope.
>    Mike
>    On May 12, 2017, at 12:18 PM, [1]thomas at seamarc.com wrote:
>    Dear Michael,
>    Thanks for your effort in summing this up.
>    I read: "There  is a large body of research supporting the contention
> that
>    land-based stress dominated until late in the 20^th century, but global
>    warming is gaining quickly in a race we would rather not watch." The
> lessons
>    from coral reefs other than the Caribbean is that global has
> unfortunately
>    already overtaken the land based stresses. Just like I suppose that the
> land
>    based stresses would have overtaken the effects of the dust at some
> stage,
>    making it a lesser concern.
>    Regarding the dust, maybe Gene can tell us has significant the year 83
> in
>    geological terms. If ever such events have happened in the past, I
> guess the
>    reefs would have recovered before 83. Why wouldn't the reef have
> recovered
>    by now? If such events are more frequent than before, explaining a
>    continuous decline, are we not talking about an early sign of climate
>    change? We also need to mention that this is mostly a Caribbean problem
> as
>    the dust transport mentioned represents 70 % of the dust movement over
> the
>    earth.
>    You also write: "Human populations will be displaced, perhaps suddenly,
> by
>    unpredictable rises in sea level. The time may come when society as a
> whole
>    may not have the resources to save coral reefs, because people come
> first".
>    I am under the impression that the sea level rise is predicted, and even
>    measured. The question however is, looking at the current situation, by
> how
>    many times do we have to multiply the amount of Syrian refugees for the
>    situation to become unbearable?
>    Regards,
>    Thomas
>    _______________________________________________
>    Coral-List mailing list
>    [2]Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> References
>    1. mailto:thomas at seamarc.com
>    2. mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
"have regulator, will travel"
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

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