[Coral-List] Sargassum Season and Dust

Risk, Michael riskmj at mcmaster.ca
Wed Jul 17 18:50:59 UTC 2019

   Ulf, when you are in a hole, stop digging.
   We all have bad ideas. I have had far more than my share. It's never a
   good policy, however, to defend a bad idea just because someone else
   pointed out that it was one.
   No one would deny illegal mining was a problem*: it was you who
   suggested it might account for Caribbean reef decline. That sort of
   thing just makes my stomach hurt. This will invite another round of
   "it's not us, it's illegal mining." This will just muddy the waters.
   You have responded to me without bothering to check any of the extant
   HM records from the Caribbean. I suggest you do so. Talk to the people
   who know this field. Read my paper on the record of the Orinoco. Do
   some mass-balance work.
   * I regret I cannot say more at this juncture, but: yeah, illegal
   mining shows up nicely-where it occurs.

   From: Ulf Erlingsson [ceo at lindorm.com]
   Sent: July 17, 2019 1:13 PM
   To: Risk, Michael
   Cc: Pawlik, Joseph; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
   Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Sargassum Season and Dust
   "If illegal mining were really a widespread problem"
   illegal mining _IS_ a widespread problem.
   It is not an hypothesis. It is a FACT.
   If it reaches the Caribbean is another matter, but if someone suggests
   that contaminants from the Amazon and the Orinoco affects the Caribbean
   corals, then Hg most definitely does as well, by logic, since it is a
   main pollutant in the Orinoco.
   Ulf Erlingsson

   On 2019-07-17, at 12:58 , Risk, Michael <[1]riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

   Ulf,  the LAST thing this debate needs is another unsupported
   If illegal mining were really a widespread problem, then Hg would have
   shown up in any of the many TE profiles already taken in the Caribbean.
   Many of these have been published (yeah, some by me).
   We know that the Caribbean decline was well under way by 1980.
   The really sad part is: Brian's results are no surprise to those who
   have been watching this over the years.
   From: Coral-List [[2]coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] on behalf
   of Ulf Erlingsson via Coral-List [[3]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov]
   Sent: July 17, 2019 10:29 AM
   To: Pawlik, Joseph
   Cc: [4]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
   Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Sargassum Season and Dust
   My two cents: Don't ignore the large scale illegal mining in the
   Orinoco, which pollutes the river with things like mercury and cyanide.
   This illegal mining has been going on since the 1990s in significant
   scale, but it has now accelerated, and it is now the main source of
   income for the dictatorship in Caracas (alongside cocaine smuggling,
   which also pollutes to be sure).
   It is not impossible that the increase of illegal mining (mostly of
   gold) has grown in a general rate that is consisten with the decline of
   corals in the Caribbean, so I would suggest to look into that. The
   problem is of course to find statistics on an illegal activity, but one
   can use proxies, speak to the locals (the Native Americans living in
   the rainforest in question, notably one national park in the state of
   Amazonas in Venezuela), and judge the "progress" on satellite images.
   Ulf Erlingsson
   Lindorm, Inc.
   10699 NW 123rd Street Road
   Medley, FL 33178-6166

     On 2019-07-16, at 20:54 , Pawlik, Joseph via Coral-List
     <[5]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
     Thanks for the brief review, Gene,
     The Sahara dust hypothesis is an intriguing one, both in terms of
     iron enrichment resulting in widespread Caribbean nutrification, and
     as a potential source of pathogens. My colleagues and I have
     included dust in some recent synthesis papers related to Caribbean
     reef ecosystem function (see below).
     But as I communicated to Gene a few months back, I'm having doubts
     about dust.
     Recent trips to the Red Sea reveal highly oligotrophic reef systems
     that are dumped on regularly by desert dust. Check out this video of
     the reefs off Egypt:
     In the water column above Red Sea reefs, there was visible
     trichodesmium, near daily accumulations of dust on the boat deck,
     but on the reefs, no seaweeds, sponges, or coral disease.
     What is different is that there are no river inputs to the Red Sea,
     and a LOT of freshwater coming into the Caribbean from the Amazon
     (driven N by surface currents), Orinoco, Magdelena, and Mississippi
     (see the vicious circle hypothesis paper, below). We've also found
     that the sponges on the Saudi side of the Red Sea are starving as
     you move offshore along a gradient of decreasing DOC, something we
     don't see in the Caribbean, where levels of labile DOC seem to be
     higher, probably because of all the seaweed.
     In short, I think river inputs (and DOC) are much more important
     than dust in explaining the difference between Caribbean reefs and
     those in other parts of the tropics.
     Any thoughts from the oceanographers at KAUST?
     Pawlik, J.R., Burkepile, D.E., Vega Thurber, R. 2016. A vicious
     circle? Altered carbon and nutrient cycling may explain the low
     resilience of Caribbean coral reefs. BioScience, 66: 470-476
     Pawlik, J.R., McMurray, S.E. 2020. The emerging ecological and
     biogeochemical importance of sponges on coral reefs. Annual Review
     of Marine Science, 12: 3.1-3.23
     Wooster, M.K., McMurray, S.E., Pawlik, J.R., Moran, X.A., Berumen,
     M.L. 2019. Feeding and respiration by giant barrel sponges across a
     gradient of food abundance in the Red Sea. Limnology and
     Oceanography, 64:1790-1801
     Joseph R. Pawlik
     Frank Hawkins Kenan Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology
     Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology
     UNCW Center for Marine Science
     5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
     Wilmington, NC  28409
     Office:(910)962-2377; Cell:(910)232-3579
     Website: [8]http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/index.html <[9]http://peo
     PDFs: [10]http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/pubs2.html <[11]http://peop
     Channel: [12]https://www.youtube.com/user/skndiver011 <[13]https://w
     From: Coral-List
     <[14]coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <[15]mailto:coral-list-b
     ounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>> on behalf of Eugene Shinn via
     <[16]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <[17]mailto:coral-list at coral.aom
     Sent: Monday, July 15, 2019 5:47 PM
     To: [18]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <[19]mailto:coral-list at coral.
     Subject: [Coral-List] Sargassum Season
     Melissa is correct. "There has been a lot of Sahara Dust over the
     area where the Sargassum has proliferated."
     Many coral-list readers will remember that I have blamed many
     including the demise of Caribbean corals, on microbes and toxic
     in African dust. As shown by Joe Prospero at the University of
     what is often called Saharan dust is in fact soil dust originating
     in a
     vast area south the Sahara called the Sahel. I spent more than10
     devoted to the study of African dust and for several years led a
     project devoted to its study. Our project included two
     a coral biologist who lived in the Virgin Islands and a geochemist.
     study began with funding from NASA to hire our first microbiologist.
     Before our congressional funded project ended in 2006 over 200 live
     microbes had been identified. Viruses, including one that causes
     and mouth disease in cattle are many times more abundant. They
     remain to
     be studied. The research was initially stimulated by the demise of
     Caribbean corals, including the Florida reef tract. Disease of
     corals peaked in 1983 the same year the sea urchin /Diadema/ began
     throughout the Caribbean. What led us to African dust were several
     reviewed scientific papers demonstrating that the Amazon rainforest
     receives most of its essential nutrients form African dust. Tree
     high above flood level sprout roots to take advantage of the red
     nutrient rich soil that often coats the limbs. Air plants also
     thrive on
     the dust. We soon learned that red soils and hard surface crusts on
     Caribbean islands and the Florida Keys are composed of clay minerals
     fine-grained quartz silt. The red brown color is due to oxidized
     common to the millions of tons of African dust that reach this side
     the Atlantic Ocean each year. There are no local sources of these
     minerals on Caribbean island. Most Caribbean islands surrounded by
     oceanic waters consist entirely of limestone constructed by corals
     including sands and mud precipitated from seawater. The Bahaman
     and islands cap 15,000 feet of limestone. I will refrain from boring
     readers with any more geology.
     What is most striking are satellite images indicating the path of
     dust during summer months (July-November). The pattern is identical
     the present distribution of Sargassum mats now extending from West
     Africa to the Caribbean and that periodically enters the Gulf of
     and then moves northward to cities in the northern Gulf including
     Houston and Dallas. Often these clouds of dust turn eastward and
     back into the Atlantic where they circle the Bermuda High and settle
     over the Sargasso Sea. Creation of Red tides in the Gulf of Mexico
     also been attributed to iron fertilization from African dust.
     winter months the dust clouds take a southerly rout into the Amazon
     basin) This year we had our first influx of dust in the Gulf of
     in late June. Meanwhile lake Chad in the Sahel which was about100
     in diameter in 1960, has shrunk to less than 10 miles. Its huge
     lakebed is increasingly blowing across the Atlantic while even more
     arriving from the Bodel depression. Dr. Joe Prospero has been
     and monitoring the origin and abundance of these dust clouds since
     Like Melissa and many others who have experienced the dust clouds in
     Croix, know exactly what she is talking about. Ask any resident or
     medical doctor on Caribbean islands and they will tell you that
     arrive with respiratory problems when the red/hazy clouds of dust
     arrive. This is especially true for Barbados and Trinidad. Every
     sailboat owner in the Virgin Islands is familiar with the red dust
     wash from sails and decks. Many are familiar with the red mud that
     accumulates in their water cisterns. I have collected the red mud
     the bottom of cisterns on several islands in the Caribbean. With
     background I like Melissa, was greatly surprised to see a paper in
     Nature attributing the Atlantic Sargassum bloom to run-off from the
     Amazon and upwelling of nutrient rich Atlantic waters. There was no
     mention of fertilization from atmospheric dust as a possible source.
     Possibly it is just another chicken or egg question. Gene
     No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
     E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
     University of South Florida
     College of Marine Science Room 221A
     140 Seventh Avenue South
     St. Petersburg, FL 33701
     <[20]eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
     Tel 727 553-1158
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