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

tomascik at novuscom.net tomascik at novuscom.net
Mon May 22 11:49:22 EDT 2017

Hi everyone,

Considering the topic I though that the three papers below would be of  
interest to all.

Buddemeier, R.W., 1993. Corals, climate and conservation. p. 3-10. In:  
R.H. Richmond (ed.) Proceedings of the 7th International Coral Reef  
Symposium Vol. 1. University of Guam Press, UOG Station, Guam.

You can access his paper through ReefBase at:


The link below takes you to a paper by Bell et al 2014 that suggests  
that GBR has been under stress for some time and the notion of few  
past impacts just does not wash.


We must cut down emissions of GHGs but the trajectory of higher SSTs  
is going to continue for some time and we really have little control  
over that. However, we do have full control of managing human  
activities that contribute to the degradation of coral reef system and  
that is where we should be focusing more of our efforts. Healthier  
coral reefs will probably have a better chance adapting to higher SSTs  
than stressed systems.

Clearly our management of human activities that have detrimental  
effects on coral reefs has not been stellar, and you may find this  
paper by Mike Risk of interest:



Quoting Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>:

> Mike,
>     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
> ways.
>      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
> phone 1 684 622-7084
> Join the International Society for Reef Studies.  Membership includes a
> subscription to the journal Coral Reefs, and there are discounts for pdf
> subscriptions and developing countries.  Coral Reefs is the only journal
> that is ALL coral reef articles, and it has amazingly LOW prices compared
> to other journals.  Check it out!  www.fit.edu/isrs/
> "Belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."- Jim Beever.
>   "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."-
> Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
> Study: Stopping global warming only way to save coral reefs.
> https://www.yahoo.com/news/study-stopping-global-warming-only-way-save-coral-180833431.html
> 'Extreme and unusual' climate trends continue after record 2016.
> http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-3932
> A roadmap for rapid decarbonization
> http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6331/1269?utm_campaign=toc_sci-mag_2017-03-23&et_rid=17045989&et_cid=1233226
> _______________________________________________
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