[Coral-List] What it means that Florida Aquarium reported captive reproduction of a Mycetophyllia.

Kaufman, Leslie S lesk at bu.edu
Wed Apr 22 16:47:19 UTC 2020

Hi all.

The Florida Aquarium recently reported another success in coral husbandry- the captive reproduction of a Mycetophyllia species (lamarckiana).  The headlines trumpet that this is a breakthrough in the fight to save coral reefs.  In an offline discussion colleagues pointed out rightly that cactus corals are not major reef-builders, and there Is some pushback on the media reports for this reason. There is also a larger pushback on coral reef restoration generally.  The argument goes that reef restoration is a fool’s errand and a distraction from the battle to reduce GHGs.

Righteous indignation over our failure to sufficiently reduce GHG emissions is justified.

Work to learn more about reproducing a wide variety of corals does not add to or detract from the retooling of our economy to fight anthropogenic climate change (or what’s left of the economy in the midst of the latest pandemic caused by rainforest destruction).

There is a tendency to emphasize healing over prevention, particularly for climate change and coral reefs. This can be misleading.  That doesn’t mean we should stop learning about healing reefs, or celebrating our little successes.  The point is, they are little.  They are desperate.  They are part of a last ditch emergency plan to put bits and pieces of coral reefs on life support so something will still be there to rebuild reefs once this becomes practical again.  

We do of course need to focus on carbon.  The drawdown is going to take long enough that many coral reef species could undergo widespread extirpations and even extinctions without life support interventions.  GHG drawdown and emergency life support measures are both important for coral reef conservation.  Both are emergencies.  One is the cure, the other is rescue and intensive care.

Consider the forests. Future novel pandemics can be greatly reduced by changing our relationship with tropical forests, many now down to miniscule fragments- even the last great forests are deeply encroached, their edges dangerously frayed.  First aid is to heal the rough edges, but what we really must do is stop destroying these forests and learn how to accelerate their regeneration.  Coral reefs are in similar straits and closely linked to forests via the carbon cycle and climate change.  Here too, we must fix the root cause but also ensure that something remains to be regenerated.

Let us put fighting climate change and maintaining natural systems in a common frame of reference.  Let us make both part of a larger strategy, with all of our individual interventions united, in context.


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