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

Pedro M Alcolado gmalcolado at gmail.com
Thu May 18 11:54:42 EDT 2017

Dear all,
"speak with one voice", as claims Steve,  is just what I meant in a
short former message.  It is becoming too late to generate the
relevant actions in a synergical way involving all well recognized
local and global factors.

On 5/13/17, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Dear Michael and all,
> I don't even wonder anymore if my grandchild will ever see reefs like I did
> (at least throughout the Caribbean), but then again I never got to see the
> reefs as Hans Haas did off Bonaire in the 1930s. My point being is that from
> my perspective it makes no sense to get agitated over points with respect to
> which specific stressor initiated the decline. It seems to me that even the
> most fervent scientific combatants agree on some basic principles going
> forward. Who among you doesn't recognize the detrimental impacts on coral
> reefs of over-population, land-based pollutants (poor water quality),
> over-fishing and warming oceans due to climate change? Yes, and you can add
> plastic debris, lionfish, sunscreen and African dust too!  I would even go
> as far as to say that most believe that GHGs are at this point most likely
> to provide the ultimate death blow. You said it yourself, "We need to figure
> out what our responses should be, and perhaps for the first time speak with
> one voice". We can't possibly do that if we continue to polarize this
> scientific discipline with contentious personal indictments. There seems to
> be viable strategies available if only we could bring ourselves to focus on
> our concurrences rather than points of dissension. The appearance of discord
> within the scientific community only serves to prolong the ordeal. We need
> to get a message out there with decisiveness and clarity. We are destroying
> our marine ecosystems; these are the contributing factors; if we care, we
> can do something about it; time is running out.
> Regards,
> Steve
> Sent from my iPad
> Sent from my iPad
> Sent from my iPad
>> On May 12, 2017, at 7:51 PM, 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
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>> References
>> 1. mailto:thomas at seamarc.com
>> 2. mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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