[Coral-List] Is any reef "remote?"

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri May 19 19:22:18 EDT 2017

    Florida's and the Caribbean's trajectory of coral loss, as shown in the
Gardner paper, is not universal.  It doesn't even apply to all Caribbean
reefs, as the GCRMN report led by Jeremy Jackson showed (though all reefs
declined, it wasn't as drastic or sustained at all sites).  No doubt that
decline is widespread, but if you look at John Bruno's paper for the
Pacific, the South Pacific had not declined as of that paper.  So far I
haven't seen large South Pacific declines since the paper either.  I would
have said the Northern GBR hasn't declined also, if I was writing a few
years ago.  Of course we now know why it has declined recently, and it
wasn't a local pollution event.  And while remote reefs like Chagos have
bounced back from enormous coral losses, some like Chagos have now been hit
a second time, equally damaging, and the question is open, can they keep
bouncing back?  Not to mention that of course even when there is 20 years
between such events there isn't time to recover the loss of the moderate
size massive Porites corals, let alone the big ones.  What is going to
happen when reefs get hit very hard every few years?  The way things are
going the Great Barrier Reef is in the process of finding out.
      I agree with anyone who says that there are many different things
humans do that negatively impact reefs.  That's pretty obvious.  I'll reply
to Dennis by saying, yes, we need to work on all of them, and I'll agree
with you, Mike, that some things are locally more tractable than some of
the global threats.  But I'll repeat my statements about "triage", that is,
when a flood of patients comes into a hospital, it is necessary to quickly
figure out which have problems that if not treated immediately will lead to
their death, and which can wait until those have been treated.  And then
first treat those who must be treated right away.  I don't think all
threats to coral reefs are created equal, some are more damaging than
others.  The land-based pollution problems you refer to Mike are usually
considered among the major threats to coral reefs, and are included in
programs like those of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program that target
only a few of the greatest threats (though they have precious little money
to invest in it).  Still, I think it is important to do some triage with
coral reef threats.  Sunscreens are vastly less threatening than climate
change to reefs, hot water killed about 16 percent of the world's coral in
the 1998 El Nino hot water event, the largest single coral mortality event
that I know of since scientists started studying coral reefs.  I haven't
yet read any reports of strong evidence of any coral mortality in the ocean
caused by sunscreens.  Just because it is easy to tackle doesn't mean that
it is going to help corals by an appreciable amount (though there is
something to say for the view that corals are dying from a thousand cuts,
and for virtually every threat there is some small high-value reef where
reducing the threat will do a lot of good).  So I retain the view that
working hard on something like sunscreen while ignoring climate change (as
some have essentially argued for; sunscreen appears to be a handy
distraction) is the equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on the
Titanic.  I also contend that making major inroads on the climate change
problem, while not possible for most individuals, is indeed possible, as
demonstrated by the Paris accords (Individual action by many people can
accomplish a lot).  Action to follow that up is just as vital to be able to
have at least some corals survive.  Remaining quiet when some countries
fail to live up to their promises (as the US seems likely to do) will help
those who prefer huge profits for some giant corporations over the survival
of some ecosystems like coral reefs, not to mention human welfare in many
     Also, I fully agree that no reefs are free from human impacts now, and
few don't have significant impacts, and some (like the Northern GBR) just
went from few impacts to major impacts.  But they do differ in the amount
of impacts.  Few coral reefs are left if any that are still near-pristine.
None pristine, none.
    Cheers,  Doug

On Wed, May 17, 2017 at 7:24 AM, Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

>    On the contrary. In previous posts, I have said that we need to focus
> on the
>    local,  because  we  have some control over that (active tourism works
>    wonders). If, for example, we project Gardner's curve/trend into the
> future,
>    and use Florida as an example, we can see that the world's reefs will
> all
>    have (vast majority) been dead decades before the oceans reach their
> thermal
>    limit. Think globally, act locally..
>    You are an American-I will put it to you like this. Do you think you
> would
>    have more success convincing your friends and neighbours to check out
> the
>    sewage disposal systems of any proposed holiday resorts, or convincing
> your
>    country to give up fossil fuels?
>    One is possible, and will produce results. The other...ins'allah.
>    (Sorry-"neighbors".)
>    Mike
>      _________________________________________________________________
>    From: Dennis Hubbard [dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu]
>    Sent: May 16, 2017 2:10 PM
>    To: Risk, Michael
>    Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Is any reef "remote?"
>    Just to play devil's advocate (as someone who thinks of myself as
> largely a
>    "climate scientist"), does anyone think that we need to just give up on
> all
>    locally based management and focus on emissions because, "unless we
> change
>    that, nothing else matters"?
>    Dennis
>    On Tue, May 16, 2017 at 9:15 AM, Risk, Michael <[1]riskmj at mcmaster..ca>
>    wrote:
>         For those of you who may still harbour the belief that there are
> reefs
>         isolated from human impacts:
>         [2]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39931042
>      _______________________________________________
>      Coral-List mailing list
>      [3]Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>      [4]http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>    --
>    Dennis Hubbard
>    Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
>    (440) 775-8346
>     "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"
>     Benjamin Stein: "Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream"
> References
>    1. mailto:riskmj at mcmaster.ca
>    2. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39931042
>    3. mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    4. http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
"have regulator, will travel"
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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