[Coral-List] Mixed Messages

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 30 15:14:37 UTC 2019

Thanks Doug,
Yes, it’s true that resilience has been defined broadly and that could certainly make a difference. Same with water quality I’ve been told and, of course, there are other variables at play as well. Case in point, I imagine it would be nearly impossible to determine what the conditions would be like on Looe Key (FL) today had water quality been adequately dealt with decades ago. No doubt it’s important, but would resilience be boosted enough to offset the remaining stressors, especially the effects of climate change? Another related point of interest would be whether or not observable impacts on one reef can be applied universally since there are so many variables involved. I also agree that the issue I raised has more to do with media misrepresentation than it does with the paper itself. However, I have seen examples whereby authors have gone out of their way to emphasize in no uncertain terms that reduction of carbon emissions (addressing climate change) is priority number one. That’s crucial in my opinion, not so much for the scientific community, but for concern for how science-based conclusions might impact public perceptions. That was evident in the discussions we had about sunscreens. No one would take issue with the idea that eliminating a source of harmful chemicals from the ocean is a net positive, just don’t allow it to be framed in terms that might suggest that it would in and of itself, save coral reefs. This may not be the role you scientists signed up for, but the critical nature of the situation at hand dictates that you be keenly aware of the fact that your research can and will be manipulated by special interests who apparently care far more about social media analytics than they do about the future of coral reefs.


Sent from my iPad

> On Jul 29, 2019, at 6:49 PM, Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
>      I think it is an open empirical question whether reducing local impacts improves resilience.  One confusion may be due to the definition of the word "resilience."  Some people have used "resilience" to mean both resistance to being killed and ability to recover.  Others have used "resistance" to refer to being killed and "resilience" to ability to recover.  Might be an important distinction.  It could be that local impacts have little or no effect on whether hot water kills corals or not.  Evidence is strong that if the water gets hot enough, they die even in places with essentially no human local impacts (northern Great Barrier Reef, Scott Reef in NW Australia, Chagos, Jarvis (remote US Pacific island) etc).  Might be that local impacts have a huge effect on whether corals can recover.  Nearly no local impacts and they recover (such as Scott Reef and Chagos), and heavy impacts no recovery (Discovery Bay, Jamaica, 40 years later).  Or maybe that's not the solution to the question, empirical question, important question.
>      My thought is that this title ("biggest threat to coral reefs") was on the popular article, not on the original, scientific article, it is not the fault of the authors of the scientific article unless they provided the idea that poor water quality is the greatest threat to coral reefs to the popular article writer (which I don't know to be the case, and I know that popular article writers have to have an attention-grabbing title to pull readers in, so I assume it was their idea).
>       If the popular article had said that poor water quality was the biggest threat to Florida reefs, that may well be true.  My impression was that coral disease was the proximate cause of the death of most Florida corals.  But as the writers of this scientific article point out, nutrients have been documented to exacerbate coral diseases.  So maybe nutrients are the ultimate cause of the Florida coral deaths.  And could well be same or similar for the Caribbean, I suppose.  But for the world's coral reefs?  I don't think so, especially threat ifor the future.  Mind you, the documented decline in Florida and the Caribbean is greater than in most of the Indo-Pacific.
>       Nutrients are widely considered to be one of the greatest threats to coral reefs.  Reducing nutrients from humans is obviously a very good thing to do, vital in many places, particularly Florida.  No dispute there.  But many of us think that global warming causing bleaching is the greatest future threat to the world's corals as a whole.  At the same time, other, local threats can have great impacts locally, and we must act on them as well as climate change, and locally the local threats are about all individuals can reduce.  But we must get global warming under control or the world's corals are going to be mostly dead from bleaching if they weren't already killed by disease, nutrients, sediment, overfishing, etc etc etc.
>      Cheers, Doug

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