[Coral-List] Mixed Messages

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 25 15:47:50 UTC 2019

Hi All,

Two recently published papers caught my eye and though I appreciate both perspectives, I can’t help but come away a bit perplexed by what appears to be somewhat contradictory conclusions.  I have links to and a couple of (what I believe to be conflicting) quotes from each listed below:

1.   “The 2014–2017 global-scale coral bleaching event: insights and impacts”

“Examining the patterns of the 2016 bleaching across a gradient of local stressors in the GBR showed no sign of bleaching protection where water quality was high (Hughes et al. 2017b)”. 

“Past conservation approaches do not address the scale of the greatest threats corals face in the Anthropocene—the growing climate crisis (Hughes et al. 2017a; Bellwood et al. 2019). Clearly, this points to the need for action to avert the growing climate crisis rather than relying on local action”.

2.    “Thirty years of unique data reveal what's really killing coral reefs”.

"Citing climate change as the exclusive cause of coral reef demise worldwide misses the critical point that water quality plays a role, too," said Porter. "While there is little that communities living near coral reefs can do to stop global warming, there is a lot they can do to reduce nitrogen runoff. Our study shows that the fight to preserve coral reefs requires local, not just global, action."

“These coral reefs were dying off long before they were impacted by rising water temperatures. Elevated nitrogen levels cause phosphorus starvation in corals, reducing their temperature threshold for bleaching”.

While I believe that no one is actually claiming that climate change is the exclusive cause of coral demise or that dealing with local stressors is a cure-all, these two papers do seem to be to some degree at odds. For someone who has settled into the narrative that emphasizes the need to address climate change, water quality issues and over-fishing (perhaps in that order) all this is a bit unnerving. 

 How do you suggest that I reconcile these (at least partially) antithetical approaches?


Sent from my iPad

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