[Coral-List] Are reef ecologists capable of building the complex science needed

angela dikou angeladikou at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 4 08:11:26 EDT 2017

Dear Peter and Charles,

it is my and others understanding that complex systems are those systems that:

1.have many component parts and relationships

2.they integrate various subsystems

3.they are open systems

4.they are history-dependent

5.they are self-regulated with feed back loops; cross (spatio-temporal) level interactions; changes in their resilience, connectedness and potential, and

6.they can vary their trajectory or their structure or their function (due to changes in their parts and relationships) to better track changes (adapt) in their changed environment, which give rise to the multiple states they can "stabilise" for some or long time

[apparently, collapse is not the only available non-linear dynamic in nature]

On the other hand, chaotic systems are initial conditions-dependent systems..

We know that the resilience of coral reefs depends on the high total cover of reef building corals (first feedback loop) and the high complexity/robustness of their foodwebs (second feedback loop). Let's join these two feedback loops, let's add interactions with moderators of values, policy, economy, technology, management to figure out the resultant and desirable levels of ecosystem goods and services to be provided by reefs.

Thank you for spreading.

Angela Dikou

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov> on behalf of Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
Sent: Thursday, November 2, 2017 9:54 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Charles Sheppard (Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk)
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Are reef ecologists capable of building the complex science needed

Hi Charles,
Re coral reef decline, your post centered on the standard perspective - we know all the science we need, let's just get on with the job.  In your words, "I suggest though, with all respect, that reef complexity does not matter in the least.   Reefs are declining whether they are complex or simple, whatever we have done about it."

I have to differ.  While the standard 'solutions' to reef decline - protect them from overfishing, pollution, siltation, other local indignities, while also working to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible - are undoubtedly a) based on science, and b) definitely worth doing, they will almost certainly prove to be inadequate to fully 'repair' reefs because reefs are complex systems.  Complex systems behave chaotically.  They do unexpected things.

We know that some of the reefs seriously degraded in 1998 recovered and that some others did not.  We know that some reefs that have not recovered were replaced by lush stands of foliose algae - classic phase shift - while others remained relatively algae-free.  We cannot explain why each reef followed the trajectory it did, and we certainly cannot yet predict which reef about to be bleached will respond in which way.  The fact is that our simple models (which justify use of the standard solutions) do not take account of the myriad feedbacks, positive and negative, and the myriad interactions among reef species.  That is my concern.

My original post, and the fuller account on my blog http://wp.me/p5UInC-ED was not meant to imply we ecologists cannot yet offer informed advice to managers - the standard solutions are useful and often provide benefits.  I was arguing that we are a) underestimating the complexity of the systems that comprise the natural world, b) failing to build more robust models, despite routinely discovering new complexity in the experimentation and modeling we do.  And I was suggesting we may not even have the necessary neural equipment to understand the workings of complex systems, and at minimum, we should be striving to do a better (more comprehensive) job of identifying the nature of that complexity.

Hey, our world is a whole lot more complicated than we ecologists seem to believe.<http://wp.me/p5UInC-ED>
I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the difficult challenges we face if we are going to become that responsible humanity we would like to see emerge in the Anthropocene.  I’m talking about the chal…

By all means, let's push for full implementation of the standard solutions, plus effort in direct reef restoration, but let's also recognize we have a big task in science to pursue - the refinement of our models to account for as much as possible of the complexity that our ecosystems possess.  We will need such deeper understanding if we are to have any hope of navigating the challenging world of the Anthropocene.


Coral-List mailing list
Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Coral-List Info Page<http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list>
Coral-List is funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and therefore adopts and is guided by ...

More information about the Coral-List mailing list