[Coral-List] Call to Action Re: New paper on coral bleaching in Science

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Thu Jan 11 15:50:16 EST 2018

Sarah, Katy, Steve et al:

I don't have time for the measured response I'd like to post, but I thought
I might toss out a couple of smaller things that I hope are pertinent. I
agree with the sentiments that putting people back into a burning building
before the fire is out is not the best approach. As a consultant, I always
argued against coral transplantation as mitigation for a project, in part
because there was already enough stress for corals and, in part, because
the approach was usually to take organisms (corals, seagrass, whatever) and
move it from a place where it is to a place where it is not.

In the end, the only healthy thing was the consultant's bank account. I'm
not saying that transplanting can't work - only that I've seen it fail too
many times to think it's a viable answer. That may not be a fair comparison
to outplanting corals as the reason there are no corals in the outplant
site may not be related to a lack of suitability.

Beyond that, I'll share one observation and raise one concern that often
comes up for me. The observation relates to what seemed to be a very
successful nursery/outplanting project on the NW corner of St. Croix
(Caribbean). The project raised a significant number of seemingly healthy *A.
cervicornis* colonies that were outplanted at a number of local sites.
Following this, reports by a trusted colleague indicated that the colonies
were recruiting and that the transplants had been described as "creating
reef structure". At the time, I found myself bristling at the idea of "reef
structure". While there was significant spatial complexity in the branching
coral community, as a geologist I tend to thing of "reef structure" as
something that a) creates spatial complexity (it certainly did), b)
encourages diversity (I don't know, but suspect at least some) and c)
resists physical damage, either within a stretch of reef or along some
other area for which that "structure" provides protection (most assuredly
not the case). Fast forward to reports from the same colleague after
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, describing all the successful outplants being
pummeled and spread across the seascape. Given this coral's propensity to
recruit by fragmentation, there may be a good outcome down the line, but
the scene that was described to me doesn't leave me optimistic that any (or
enough) of the fragments will survive; hopefully I'll get a chance to see
for myself this month. So, my question here is whether the energy that is
being put into rearing a species that grows quickly but has very little
resistance to physical damage makes sense when compared to focusing on more
slower-growing, massive species that I saw survive Hurricane Hugo (in part
due to their shape and in part due to their preferred water depth where
shear stress is an order of magnitude lower).

By way of concern, I have read many posts and abstracts that describe what
might be considered as a "genetic super-species" that is thermally tolerant
so it could be used in outplanting efforts. My understanding of genetics as
a geologist is limited, so anyone can feel free to correct me in my view
that broadcasting vs cloning is a trade-off between recruitment success
versus genetic diversity. Whatever the case, the challenge will be to
create a coral that has a very limited amount of genetic diversity
vis-a-vis thermal resistance but has significant diversity as it relates to
all the other things corals need to deal with. Is there a way to
artificially breed corals that are heat tolerant (i.e., "genetically
specific" to heat tolerance) while also being "genetic generalists" with
respect to everything else? (I'm sure my terms mix ecological and genetic
term is deeply flawed, but hope that everyone knows what I'm getting at) If
this is not the case, then don't we run the risk of having thermal
super-corals that might have no tolerance for sediment - or some other
stress that we haven't anticipated down the line?

I don't claim to have a good answer, but it seems that a logical corollary
to "don't put corals on the reefs unless the stresses have been mediated"
might be, "don't put corals on the reefs unless you know what all the
stresses are"? All I can say with regard to the latter is that I don't. If
anyone in the group can provide even a reef-specific list (i.e., let's
simplify this by starting with the stresses on only one reef that we've
studied in detail), we might start by discussing genetic (or management)
solutions for that well-understood reef before we try to come up with a
cure for all stressed reef systems. I feel like I have a very close
relationship with the reefs on NW St. Croix and I don't have any confidence
that I understand them well enough to come up with more than a list of what
won't work. I really DO wish I had better answers. But folks far wiser than
I argued constantly over the relative importance of top-down vs bottom-up
solutions.... until climate change reared its ugly head. Since then we've
been beating each other up for not understanding that OURr stress was the
only one worth thinking about from a management perspective. If, as I
suspect, we can't agree on which are the critical stresses to manage, then
it becomes pretty hard to create good solutions. Going back to my political
post, this is why I decided to put my own back yard in order while the
"experts" decided what to do about climate change. Having said all of this,
I will give what I have often described as "Quixotic outplanters" their
due. At least they are doing something, while I ramble on the list serve.





On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 3:27 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Hi Katy,
> Great points as I believe you have clearly articulated what many others
> may be thinking about in regards to the strengths and limitations of the
> valuable research involved in coral reef restoration. I too believe that it
> is incumbent upon the scientific community to make clear what restoration
> can and can not do. I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off
> allowing nature to run it’s course. Then again, this is tempered by the
> realization that if we don’t act, we might be risking extinction for many
> coral species. Certainly the best strategy would be to remove the
> stressors, but we are living in a time in which scientific conclusions are
> not only questioned (as they should be), but portrayed as fake news. Not
> only do we have to improve science communication, we first have to find a
> way to restore confidence in the scientific process and science itself. In
> today’s world cautionary tales of widespread coral bleaching are often met
> with suspicion as if the science and scientists behind it are somehow
> motivated by subversiveness or treason. As an advocate for coral reef
> conservation, I sometimes think that I know what it must have been like
> during that long stretch of time when the western world was ignoring
> science altogether.
> Regards,
> Steve Mussman
> Sent from my iPad
> > On Jan 10, 2018, at 11:26 AM, Cummings, Katy <Katy.Cummings at MyFWC.com>
> wrote:
> >
> > Hi Sarah,
> >
> >
> > Thanks for the call to arms! I am a supporter of coral reef restoration,
> but don't see how putting coral restoration first is the solution here. The
> first step in restoring an ecosystem is to remove the stressors - which we
> haven't done for coral reefs. How can we 'restore' a reef in a degraded
> environment that is no longer conducive to them? You are right in saying we
> need to stop burning fossil fuels at the rate we do (and stop pollution,
> coastal development, restore herbivore populations, etc. etc. etc) - and
> those are the things we need to do first before moving on to restoration.
> There have been few studies looking at the long-term success of outplanting
> projects, but with all the tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of
> thousands?) of corals outplanted on to the Florida Reef Tract in the past
> couple decades I would expect to see the reef recovering... it is not. Most
> of the Acropora I've seen planted just become damselfish nests in a few
> years. And even if these outplanted corals spawn, they're not successfully
> recruiting to the reef.
> >
> >
> > I am more hopeful about all the work being done to select for phenotypes
> that are more resistant to certain stressors. But if we still have a
> recruitment problem, I fear we're going to end up having to continually
> replant the reef until (if?) we solve the overarching problems.
> >
> >
> > On that note, I've also spoken to quite a few people down in the Keys
> about the status of Florida's coral. Many of them thought the reefs were
> doing great because of all the restoration happening on them. That's a
> pretty dangerous outlook - it lets people think we have solved the problem
> and they don't need to change anything about their own lives or be more
> active in speaking up on behalf of the reef. I know there's a balance
> between making people feel hopeful about the future and not depressing them
> to the point where they feel like it's hopeless to act further, but
> restoration needs to be clearer to the public about what it can and can not
> do. I feel that all restoration is doing at this point is maybe buying the
> reef some time so that we can solve the actual problems. Is that correct?
> Or are we trying to selectively breed coral to create a reef that is
> resilient in the face of everything humans throw at them?
> >
> > Those are my concerns and questions about restoration, and I look
> forward to seeing responses!  As far as best strategies, I almost feel like
> it would be better to drastically improve our science communication to the
> public. I think there are still far too many people out there who either
> don't know the issue exists (or think the reefs are doing well), don't know
> what they can do, or know what they can do but think it's hopeless anyways
> so why bother acting. If we can get a lot of the public on our side, we
> have their power as consumers and voters to help us in begging the
> legislature to listen to our science.
> >
> >
> > Thank you,
> >
> > Katy
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.
> aoml..noaa.gov> on behalf of Sarah Frias-Torres <sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
> >
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 9, 2018 11:08 AM
> > To: Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal; Coral Listserver
> > Subject: [Coral-List] Call to Action Re: New paper on coral bleaching in
> Science
> >
> > As Pogo says, "We have met the enemy, and he is us"
> >
> >
> > The recent Science paper (Hughes et al 2018;
> http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/80) shows a bleak global
> picture for coral reefs. We must stop burning fossil fuels if we want a
> future for coral reefs as we know them..
> >
> >
> > At this crossroads, we can either give up or keep fighting.
> >
> >
> > I choose to fight.
> >
> >
> > This is a Call to Action to those who still want to fight, against all
> odds, so coral reefs will have a future.
> >
> >
> > We have many strategies on the table. It's uncertain which strategy is
> going to work.
> >
> >
> > From the angle of coral reef restoration, I call on the restoration
> community to work together, to share failures and successes and move
> towards large-scale restoration.
> >
> >
> > To the critics of coral reef restoration, I ask you to work with us.
> Don't just say: "this won't work". Give us constructive criticism, share
> your concerns with us. Is it a failure of the scientific process (validity
> of hypothesis testing) or is it an engineering concern (bringing the
> process to scale)?. The solution is very different in each case.
> >
> >
> > For everyone on this list, let's find ways to work together, from
> science to implementation, to communication, to everything in between.
> >
> >
> > It's all hands on deck now.
> >
> >
> > Sarah Frias-Torres, PhD
> >
> > Twitter: @GrouperDoc
> > Science Blog: https://grouperluna.com/
> > Art Blog: https://oceanbestiary.com/
> > [https://s0.wp.com/i/blank.jpg]<https://oceanbestiary.com/>
> >
> > Ocean Bestiary<https://oceanbestiary.com/>
> > oceanbestiary.com
> > She was a clone. Not unique, not original, unable to make a difference.
> Inside her… it was growing. The precious cargo released only once every
> year, at the same ...
> >
> >
> >
> > https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Frias-Torres
> > [https://c5.rgstatic.net/m/437738464651637/images/
> template/default/profile/profile_default_xl.jpg]<https:
> //www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Frias-Torres>
> >
> > Sarah Frias-Torres | Smithsonian Institution, DC | on ...<
> https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Frias-Torres>
> > www.researchgate.net
> > Sarah Frias-Torres of Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. with
> expertise in Evolutionary Biology, Biology is on ResearchGate. Read 25
> publications, 1 question ...
> >
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.
> aoml...noaa.gov> on behalf of Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal <
> mark.eakin at noaa.gov>
> > Sent: Friday, January 5, 2018 12:07 PM
> > To: Coral Listserver
> > Subject: [Coral-List] New paper on coral bleaching in Science
> >
> > For the first time, an international team of researchers has measured the
> > escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics
> over
> > the past four decades. The study documents a dramatic shortening of the
> gap
> > between pairs of bleaching events, threatening the future existence of
> > these iconic ecosystems and the livelihoods of many millions of people.
> >
> > "The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished
> > five-fold in the past 3-4 decades, from once every 25-30 years in the
> early
> > 1980s to an average of just once every six years since 2010," says lead
> author
> > Prof Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral
> Reef
> > Studies (Coral CoE).
> >
> > “Reefs have entered a distinctive human-dominated era – the
> Anthropocene,”
> > said co-author, Dr C. Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric
> > Administration, USA. "The climate has warmed rapidly in the past 50
> years,
> > first making El Niños dangerous for corals, and now we're seeing the
> > emergence of bleaching in every hot summer."
> > For more, see the full paper at:
> > https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=
> http%3A%2F%2Fscience..sciencemag.org%2Fcontent%2F359%2F6371%2F80&data=02%
> 7C01%7C%7C28c288a0e1314412a06d08d554606f2c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaa
> aaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636507695516397420&sdata=%2FOiYD4VTlVb%
> 2BnUWgRfXbfPnwRT6ZA80OXJ48dtqH0Aw%3D&reserved=0
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Mark
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------
> > C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
> > Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
> > National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
> > Center for Satellite Applications and Research
> > Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
> > e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
> > url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov
> > Twitter: @CoralReefWatch FB: Coral Reef Watch
> >
> > NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
> > 5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
> > College Park, MD 20740
> > Office: (301) 683-3320     Fax: (301) 683-3301
> > Mobile: (301) 502-8608    SOCD Office: (301) 683-3300
> >
> > “You would have to reject the “greenhouse effect” outright to conclude
> that
> > human activities pumping millions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse
> > gases into the atmosphere every year are having little or no impact on
> the
> > earth’s climate. That is simply not a tenable position."
> > William K. Reilly, EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush,
> > June 18 2014
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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*"

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