Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sat Aug 8 04:11:18 UTC 2020

     It is also the case that there is a long laundry list of ways in which
humans damage reefs.  If scientists simply report the facts of which things
are damaging the reefs that they work on, there will be lots of different
messages.  Surely scientists should report those facts.  Anybody who says
sediments and nutrients don't damage reefs and aren't two of the top
threats isn't paying attention, most scientists agree they are.  When there
are heavy rains in Queensland, a huge plume of muddy water comes out of the
Burdikin River, and smaller amounts out other rivers.  Janice Lough led a
group that documented an increase in sediment in coral skeletons on the
Great Barrier Reef (GBR) at the time of European settlement.  Before I left
Australia and moved to American Samoa over 16 yrs ago, Queensland was the
only state in Australia that still allowed land clearing without a permit
(hopefully now that has changed).  My impression is that sediment and
nutrients along with crown-of-thorns and now mass coral bleaching, are the
major causes of loss of corals on the GBR.  Runoff nutrients fuel plankton
growth that feeds starfish larvae, so nutrient runoff feeds the
crown-of-thorns outbreaks that are one of the major contributors to loss of
corals there.  Reefs at Risk worked to evaluate and map the major local
threats to coral reefs around the world, and found that nutrients and
sediment from runoff were two of the greatest global threats, along with
overfishing, if I remember.  They didn't evaluate bleaching since they did
not view it as a mappable local threat.
      It appears to me, since climate change is often regarded as the
greatest single future threat to the world, and there is a continuous
stream of stories about it getting worse, that people assume that it causes
all damage to reefs or is the only threat of importance.  Not so.  Some
have jumped to the conclusion that the loss of coral in Florida and the
Caribbean was due to global warming and bleaching.  My understanding is
that the primary cause of much of the coral decline there was white band
disease which killed most of two (elkhorn and staghorn) coral species out
of three that commonly dominated reefs there, plus a growing number and
prevalence of other diseases, plus a new disease that is now ravaging reefs
there.  In recent years the damage from bleaching has increased as well.
The ultimate causes of the diseases is up for discussion, my understanding
is that increased temperatures speeds some diseases but not others.  Surely
many other things including nutrients and sediments weaken corals and make
them more vulnerable to disease.   So I think you are right that it is way
too easy to blame everything on bleaching and global warming.  Though that
might be understandable when the world's largest reef system (GBR) has a
lot (though not all, thank heavens) of it turn white and die in front of
your eyes, and predictions based on global warming are for much worse in
the future.
     When there are so many things damaging reefs, I don't think it is
surprising that scientists have not spoken with one voice.  Which threat is
greatest depends to some extent on where you are.  We do need to attack
them all, probably in proportion to how big a threat they are at each
location.  (I think many people are doing that)  One size does not fit
all, diversity rules.  For the world as a whole, many people think, based
on the published evidence, that climate-change driven heating and mass
bleaching is the greatest future threat to corals, and one that if we don't
tackle will kill most of what scraps of coral are left alive from all the
other ways we abuse coral.
Cheers, Doug

On Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 3:34 AM Risk, Michael <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

> Doug:
> tl/dr. The problem remains, coral reef biologists have consistently failed
> to speak with one voice. Reasons involve personal agendas and income
> streams: proponents usually use science selectively.
> You thank the media for coverage of damage. 90% of coverage (my estimate)
> of reef damage has involved climate change. I have a MS to review at the
> moment, in which this phrase catches my eye:
> "the ecology of the GBR region is suffering from the chronic effects of
> eutrophication brought about by the discharge of nutrients from the
> developed catchments."
> Mike
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Coral-List <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> on behalf of
> Douglas Fenner via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, August 4, 2020 4:07 PM
> *To:* coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> *Subject:* Re: [Coral-List] A Swim Through Time on Carysfort Reef; EFFORT
> Apologies, that post got sent before it was ready.
>    So during rapid economic growth, such as the industrial revolution in
> the UK, Europe, and the US, pollution rapidly grew out of control, and
> people didn't realize the source of the problem.  In London, "London fog"
> was really smog from burning coal in fireplaces to heat homes.  At one
> point it killed about 2000 people.  If you travel above ground sections of
> the subway there today, you see nearly endless rows of houses all with many
> smoke stacks.  But zero smoke.  You look around and the air looks clear.
> People aren't choking on it.  There was a time, maybe in the 60's, when
> Tokyo's air was so bad there were coin operated machines on the sidewalk
> that dispensed oxygen for those who needed it.  No more, like London, this
> gigantic urban area with something like 24 million people, has air that
> looks clear and people aren't choking and dying in the streets.
> Pittsburgh, in the US used to have blackened buildings from the soot from
> coal-fired steel mills.  No more, the mills are gone, people have other
> jobs, the buildings were cleaned, the city gleams and competes for the best
> quality of life in the USA.  Tell me those aren't success stories!!!!   AI
> CAN and WILL be repeated, China and India know they have a terrible air
> pollution problem, and they are on it.  They know about the huge health
> costs of caring for people sickened by it, lost work hours, lost lives.
> China is now the world's largest solar panel manufacturer.  India has a
> plan for renewables that is so ambitious people doubt they can do it that
> fast.  (No, the air is far from perfect, and the battle is not over.  It
> will never be over, but  real progress has been made and will be made.)
>     There are huge constituencies for the environment, and politicians
> ignore that to their own peril.  BUT, there are lots of things people
> consider benefits of doing things that end up damaging the environment,
> including coral reefs, and can come back to bite us.  Coral reefs are
> major  tourist attractions.  They feed hundreds of millions of poor people
> along coasts, and they provide hundreds of millions of dollars worth of
> coastal protection.
>      There is a story that someone came to US president FDR once and
> pleaded for action on something.  FDR grinned and said "make me do it!"  He
> wasn't mocking the person, he was saying he has to have support.  Get your
> constituents and supporters to make a LOT of noise and DEMAND it, and I
> will do it gladly.
>       Right now is the opposite of the ideal time given the pandemic
> emergency, but different issues are commonly addressed simultaneously.
>  Environmental battles never end, there is no inevitability of either
> winning or losing.  Persistence and determination and action and things
> that appeal to the public help win battles, sitting in the ivory tower and
> not speaking out don't.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, sticking your
> neck out is absolutely required to make progress.  The squeaky wheel gets
> the grease.  I have to say that the media have been an enormous help for
> us, the articles on the damage we do to the reefs and oceans and climate
> change has been nearly endless.  The more people know that their income and
> health is threatened, the more outraged they are, and the more pressure
> they apply.  Part of our problem is that the threats to humans from us
> degrading the reefs is not always obvious enough.  We need to make it
> obvious and unavoidably obvious.  But I think polls have shown an
> increasing concern about climate change and support for action.  I sense
> the tide is shifting in our favor on this issue, and it is the biggest
> threat to the future of reefs.
>      So this is a call to action.  Action gets results, inaction doesn't.
> When people believe that it is in their own best interests to save the
> reefs, they WILL get saved.  Not until then.
> Cheers,  Doug
> On Tue, Aug 4, 2020 at 8:23 AM Douglas Fenner <
> douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > I believe that everyone in this discussion is making good points.
> >     I would like to add a hint of optimism.  There are aspects of
> > environmental battles that provide solid grounds for optimism, as well as
> > for caution and pessimism.  The grounds for optimism are that people
> don't
> > like things that threaten their health, or survival, or income, or
> > livelihoods.  A few years ago in the US lead was discovered in the water
> > supply in Flint, Michigan.  It was in the international news.  Outrage
> > resulted.  I haven't kept up with the story, but I bet it is being fixed,
> > because if it isn't, the outrage is a threat to the political careers of
> > elected officials.  ]k= =-z>:"AA^%q
> >
> > On Tue, Aug 4, 2020 at 1:36 AM Steve via Coral-List <
> > coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> >
> >>
> >> Mike Risk’s perspective on the effects of coral scientists not speaking
> >> with a unified voice clearly resonates with me.
> >>
> >> While the point is well taken that people have shown that they care way
> >> more about other things, how can we expect this dynamic to ever change
> when
> >> the messaging they receive from the “experts” in the coral science
> >> community continues to be rife with ambiguity? Policy makers respond to
> >> monied interests, but public opinion matters too and there is every
> >> indication that interest in environmental issues is on the rise,
> especially
> >> with the younger generation.
> >>
> >> What would happen if the messaging put out about what we need to do to
> >> “save coral reefs” was done with more clarity, simplicity and
> conviction?
> >>
> >> Consider the paper cited (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231817)
> >> on survivorship of the ongoing NRP (NOAA Recovery Plan) in the Florida
> Keys
> >> Marine Sanctuary. As I read it, the paper makes it clear that “reducing
> >> stressors is required before significant population growth and recovery
> >> will occur. Until then, outplanting protects against local extinction
> and
> >> helps maintain genetic diversity in the wild”. Although this conclusion
> >> points to a significant role for restoration, it makes clear that
> reducing
> >> (both local and global) stressors is paramount.
> >>
> >> Why can’t we make that point clear? What’s so hard about selling the
> >> public on the idea that we must restore some semblance of the natural
> >> ecological balance? Clean up the water; promote sustainable fisheries
> and
> >> cut carbon emissions. That simple message has yet to resonate in the
> public
> >> domain. Instead, many have become convinced that the only viable
> strategy
> >> is to race to outplant supercorals designed to withstand an inevitable
> and
> >> mounting onslaught of stressors that are somehow beyond our control.
> >>
> >> I have listened to many gray-haired coral reef scientists and there’s
> >> obviously more capitulation out there than optimism.
> >>
> >> So, does it even matter at this point if we change the messaging? Maybe
> >> not, but it may represent our best last chance to try.
> >>
> >> Regards,
> >>
> >> Steve Mussman
> >>
> >> Sent from EarthLink Mobile mail
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Coral-List mailing list
> >> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >> https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

More information about the Coral-List mailing list