[Coral-List] We must change course if we are to save the worlds? reefs - A follow up to Peter Sale and Charles Sheppard

rnharag rnharag at uol.com.br
Sat Nov 11 18:42:40 EST 2017

Dear Avigdor,

Congratulations Avigdor, on putting it in a simple but objective way, where 
actions should be focused to stop the decline of corals, since in the 
current context Global Warming has already gone beyond corals and has become 
a great threat to the humanity survival.

Getting a leverage in actions that can solve, especially the items addressed 
as category 1, would be very important although they demand a high degree of 
awareness and participation of the local population and governors (arduous 
task and relegated to the background, often for many interests conflict).

The Paris agreement at COP21 set the 1.5ºC as limit for global warming 
evolution, and now the COP23 in Bonn has the difficult task of raising the 
commitment of each of the countries involved so that it can be effectively 
achieved the 1.5ºC limit of the Paris Agreement.

With the evolution of humanity and governments' awareness about Global 
Warming, everything indicates that we will reach the long-term solution for 
humanity, but perhaps not in a timely manner for corals, which will continue 
to bleach massively in response to stressors category 1 and global warming.

For regions such as the Chagos Archipelago, which do not have Category 1 
stressors or have already addressed them and are working on Category 2 
items, the option would be to resort to Energetic Harmonization, which has 
the capacity to mitigate the effects of global warming, as long as we do not 
have global control.

In August 2012,  an Energetic Harmonization was carried out in a large area 
around the Maldives and Lakshadweep, with the aim of creating a giant refuge 
for corals and marine life in the Indian Ocean, from which proliferation 
could occur, if the worst happens.

For some recent research on the effect of the 2014/2016 warming, we can see 
that the corals in the Maldives atolls that are more isolated, without 
effects of local stressors, presented better resistance to Global Warming 
than the corals in the atolls of the Chagos Archipelago .

For those who are interested in knowing more about Energetic Harmonization, 
visit www.facebook.com/sobrevivenciadoscorais or www.coralsurvival.com.br

Therefore, the salvage of corals depends mainly on the prioritization of the 
category 1 items, local stressors solution, so that all other works can 
become valid.

Best wishes,

Ricardo Haraguchi
ricardo at coralsurvival.com.br


Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2017 16:20:40 +0000 From: Avigdor Abelson 
<avigdor at tauex.tau.ac.il>
To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>,
"Peter Sale" <sale at uwindsor.ca>, Charles Sheppard
<Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk>

Dear Peter and Charles,
Continuing your thread and trying to bridge the gap between your views 
(?reef complexity does or doesn?t matter?); I think you are each describing 
a ?different part of the elephant?, as in the Buddhist story; that is, I 
believe you each refer to a different approach to saving the reefs.
Considering the entire range of actions necessary to countermeasure the 
present and future reef declines, we can divide them into three major 
categories (approaches):
1. Protection and stress alleviation (e.g. overfishing, sewage, and coastal 
2. Coral-reef restoration (expanding restoration tools beyond ?reef 
3. Reef community adaptation (developing approaches such as ?assisted 
evolution? and adaptation networks; see Webster et al. 2016, TREE).
Of the three categories, ?protection and stressor alleviation? requires no 
further research, because we already know how to execute them. These actions 
should be urgently implemented, or as Jackson and Johnson wrote: ?We need to 
move immediately beyond listings of species as threatened and research about 
climate change and take rigorous action against the local and global 
stresses killing corals? (?We Can Save the Caribbean?s Coral Reefs?; 
NYTimes, Sept. 18, 2014).
The other two action categories (i.e. reef restoration and development of 
reef community adaptation) do require further and major research in order to 
better understand the reef complexity, adaptation variability within and 
among species and at different sites, and this also demands our creativity.
Charles argues that ?It is a matter for sociology, psychology and politics 
(and of course money and vested interests)?, and asks ?where are the 
journalists whose job it is to translate our science to the popular media?? 
I agree with him about the ?ex-science needs?, but I also consider that the 
journalists receive misleading messages from us, the coral-reef scientific 
community, the results of which are assertions like: ?The only sure way to 
preserve the world's coral reefs will be to take drastic action to reverse 
global warming? (D. Normile Science March 15, 2017).
This is an incorrect message! It is wrong because it is scientifically 
inaccurate in many locations. If you haven?t watched Jeremy Jackson?s 
excellent talk (in which he shows that climate change is not the main 
problem in the Caribbean, and how we can save them): 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgfNE9IAjww&t=2886s   - it is highly worth 
Focusing on climate change is also a misstep in practice!  If ?drastic 
action to reverse global warming? is the only way to save the reefs, local 
decision-makers don?t have to worry about protection and stress removal.  I 
have been working for several years now in different geographical reef 
locations, many of which have been destroyed by destructive-fishing, 
overfishing, coastal development, and sewage. This doesn?t prevent many of 
the local leaders in these locations from blaming climate change for the 
miserable state of their reefs, and they get strong reinforcement from the 
coral reef scientific community.
We have to bear in mind that while we are focusing on climate change, over 
five million coral-reef fishermen are exhaustively extracting the reefs on a 
daily basis, and too often poisoning and ruining the reefs through 
destructive fishing practices. Add to this the endless releases of 
fertilizers, pesticides, and untreated sewage from land-based sources, and 
the reefs are subjected to slow, hard-to-recognize degradation processes ? 
an expanding phenomenon that, despite its wide geographical range, is not 
attractive enough for media splashes.
If we seek a panacea for the world reefs, I think, we first have to change 
course and exit the flawed path of ?focusing on climate change?. Shouting 
out about climate change is important, as it may help in promoting public 
awareness and pushing decision-makers into action. It is also rewarding for 
scientific careers ? it helps to push papers into high impact factor 
journals and is effective in creating ?media splashes? (interesting article 
on ?media splash? ?Academics seek a big splash? NYT 2015; 
However, climate change mitigation, even if appropriately applied (which is 
very unlikely considering the proliferation of ?post-truth regimes? around 
the world), is not projected to help the reefs, at least not in the coming 
decades.  Therefore, we should treat climate change as a new reality within 
which we target our efforts of developing reef adaptation (Category 3), in 
addition to protection and stressor alleviation (Category 1), and the 
restoration of those reefs whose state is beyond natural recovery (Category 
Time is running out and not in the reefs? favor ? It is time to make a 
change by reducing the impact of land-based stressors. It is time to build 
alternative livelihoods for local fishermen and turn ?paper reserves? (too 
many of them!) into real, strictly enforced reserves. It is time to act 
locally through an enhanced sharing of what we already know with the 
relevant local stakeholders in as many as possible reef locations. It is the 
time to develop effective restoration and adaptation tools, rather than 
counting on climate change and reef gardening to save the reefs. It is time 
we should try to lead journalists to affect public awareness and local 
decision-makers, rather than us being led by what the media is expecting for 
big scoops.
Best wishes ~Avigdor

On 2 Nov 2017, at 11:25, Sheppard, Charles 
<Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk<mailto:Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk>> 

Dear Peter and others
I read recently that CO2 levels reached 403.3 ppm, a level not seen since, 
Noah, Julius Caesar,  Gengis Khan, or whatever starting point that newspaper 
drew out of the air.

I read at the same time Peter Sale?s remarks about the ecological story 
being much more complicated than we thought.  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 

Why does their complexity not matter?  Partly because we DO know enough, 
right now, to know what the problems are.  Even if the ecosystem were quite 
simple it would still be too complicated for most of our lawmakers ? who so 
often ignore what they don?t understand.  And things are not immediately 
desperate enough for us in the developed world to force action, even if they 
did understand it.  It IS desperate for millions of people, but as one very 
senior British lawmaker said to me once (unguardedly, after much liquid 
lubrication) ?Well, they are a long way southeast of Dover?.  He of course 
was interested firstly in HIS electorate.  Perhaps his comment should not 
surprise us.

I would maintain that although it is actually an extremely complex issue in 
its 4-D detail, it is VERY simple in its main point: CO2 rise, extraction 
and pollution rise = coral reef decline.

My point is, I don?t think it is a matter for science any more.  Yes, let us 
do all those research lines (multi-disciplinary, not myopic).  We know only 
a fraction about the ecology, but we understand more than enough to know 
what the consequences are of the sum of human activity.  It is a matter for 
sociology, psychology and politics (and of course money and vested 
interests).  Further unravelling of the detail (and I am all for that) is 
unlikely to change the trend.

Ever increasingly sophisticated ecological research (taking us further and 
further from lawmakers understanding), does not help answer: ?How can we be 
useful given that those who rule us don?t particularly care??

Having said that, my second point is a question: where are the journalists 
whose job it is to translate our science to the popular media?  We have all 
heard the cry: ?you scientists do not or cannot explain it properly?.  This 
should be answered by ?well no, we are busy full time trying to do the 
science in the first place?.  Translation of science to the public is a 
different skill.  People don?t ask journalists to do the original science, 
so why could it or should it work the other way round?    I have seen 
countless examples of the results of scientists miserably extolling their 
important news, and I fear that most readers do not get past the first few 
sentences.  And even if we do manage a pithy, gripping piece, a football or 
teen pop star misbehaving will trump our headlines any day.

It is exasperating to us to see such lack of care and action about something 
we think (=know) is so important.  But I suggest that a fix, if only to that 
problem, lies not with the complex research that a complex system needs, but 
will come (if it does) from a completely different direction.  We simply 
cannot do it, and proof of that is that while we have increased hugely in 
numbers of scientists and in our output, the reefs have continued to 
decline.  Why?  Is it really because we don?t do enough complex science to 
understand reefs?

Best wishes
Charles Sheppard

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