Charles Delbeek cdelbeek at calacademy.org
Tue Aug 11 14:37:40 UTC 2020

Very sad to see the state of this reef. I dove Carysfort a few times in
1973 and 1974 out of Key Largo with American Diving Headquarters as a young
lad of 16, it was the longest trip of the reefs we dove to so we only went
a couple of times but still remember the fields of A. palmata all around
the lighthouse.

Best regards,

*J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.*Curator, Steinhart Aquarium
California Academy of Sciences

Desk: 415.379.5303
Fax: 415.379.5304

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On Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 6:52 AM Risk, Michael via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

>    Doug:
>    I'm not going down that rathole with you, because it's all been said.
>    I'll dig my own hole.
>    My opinion is that coral reef biologists bear at least some
>    responsibility for the disastrous shape reefs are in now, because of
>    their well-known inability to cooperate. We are in the middle of a
>    pandemic. Those countries that have done relatively well have followed
>    expert advice-and those experts, in the main, all said the same thing.
>    Think where we would be now, if only...
>    Brian Lapointe started warning about the impacts of nutrients on
>    Florida reefs about 40 years ago. Instead of his supremely impressive
>    body of work resulting in things like nominations for the Darwin Award,
>    he has had to endure decades of character assassination. (I have seen
>    some of the correspondence.) After publication of the two Ward-Paige
>    papers (MPB 51; MEPS 296), the SECREMP results, and the Porter paper
>    showing White Pox was a human fecal bacterium, I thought "OK, that's
>    done and dusted. The Florida situation is pretty clear, and surely all
>    our colleagues will join us in telling Florida to clean up the water."
>    Never happened. There is a generation out there of mostly-US reef
>    biologists who really believe that the reefs will come back if the
>    grazers come back. They are impervious to anything not fitting that
>    narrative (sound familiar?) and push back vigorously. When I was an
>    advisor to SEFCRI, I was unable to get the committee even to consider
>    setting water quality guidelines (they have since moved on this
>    matter). There were papers suggesting nutrients had no effect on coral
>    reefs. There were attempts to supress our Florida work (details on
>    off-list request).
>    Where and how did things go wrong?
>    I am trained in biology and geology, have worked in several different
>    fields. I am not deep, I am wide. (And, my wife says, getting wider.)
>    Seems to me that the historical development of reef geology and reef
>    biology followed different paths. Geologists are simple beings. For 200
>    years their mantra has been "fossils, rocks, map the country, drink
>    beer." There has been a unifying economic thread, and most countries
>    have a geological survey. It is no accident that USGS has produced some
>    of the most elegant, decisive reef work anywhere-Americans can be proud
>    of them. Biology?
>    In many universities, especially in the US, it is possible to obtain a
>    PhD in "Ecology" without leaving the Biology Department. Reef research
>    came to be funded largely through individual competitive grants, such
>    as NSF. By its very nature, coral reef research attracted people with
>    big egos. (Parasitologists are nice people.) Developers and
>    pharmaceutical companies learned that supporting opinions could be
>    rented. What could possibly go wrong?
>    NSF now reports that reef biologists consistently rate the applications
>    they receive to review one full grade below the NSF average. Either
>    they are dumb or they are screwing each other in their belief in a
>    zero-sum game. One full generation ago, 1977, Stearn and Scoffin showed
>    us the overarching importance of bioerosion. Almost none of the zillion
>    reef monitoring programs out there make any attempt to assess or even
>    identify bioerosion (and of course these programs are all slightly
>    different, because Heaven Forbid a researcher would simply adopt
>    someone else's protocol-then they'd have to cite them).
>    There is no better example of this dysfunctional process than the
>    recent exchanges on this -list having to do with impacts of sunscreen.
>    The research was electrifying, when it came out: miniscule amounts of
>    oxybenzone were capable of shutting down coral reproduction. Safer
>    alternatives were available. This should have been a no-brainer: coral
>    biologists could have banded together, said "this is easy-ban the stuff
>    so we can get on with other things." There has never been a reef
>    stressor more easy to deal with.
>    Never happened. Pharmaceutical companies threw up smokescreens and
>    rented opinions from compliant scientists. Then there were the
>    "zero-sum" people, those who evidently believe that a column-inch of
>    coverage in NYT was a column-inch that they wouldn't get, and that a
>    research dollar to someone else was a dollar denied to them. There were
>    many comments basically saying "there are lots of threats to reefs, why
>    focus on this one" when they really meant-"what I work on is way more
>    important." Craig Downs has made some headway on Hawaii, working with
>    local NGO's and a small coterie of colleagues, but he really should
>    have had the full support of all 9,000-odd on this -list.
>    Some of my best friends are reef biologists, to coin a phrase. I do not
>    blame individuals (except those who have taken money from industry to
>    fudge the truth). I do feel that the group, as a whole, fumbled the
>    ball. We knew, in the early 1980's, all we needed to know: reefs were
>    in decline, sewage and sediments were largely to blame. Then we-no,
>    YOU-lost the next couple of decades. We will never know what would have
>    happened back in, say, 1985, had every reef biologist in North America
>    come together to say to Florida: "unless you get water quality under
>    control, those reefs will die." We do know what DID happen: and now
>    it's too late.
>    Climate change? Sure, it's important. Smith et al. 1997 (Nature v.
>    386-yikes, 23 freakin years ago!) described how a meltwater event can
>    shut down the Gulf Stream in 4 years, a process which seems to be under
>    way now. If only people had listened...but, what do I know? I am just
>    some old guy in the forest yelling at clouds. Or, as we say up here: a
>    guy in the apartment over the meth lab.
>    Mike
>    On Aug 8, 2020, at 12:11 AM, Douglas Fenner
>    <[1]douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
>    Mike,
>         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 <[2]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 <[3]coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> on behalf
>    of Douglas Fenner via Coral-List <[4]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>    Sent: Tuesday, August 4, 2020 4:07 PM
>    To: [5]coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    <[6]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
>    <[7]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 <
>    > [8]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
>    ([9]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
>    >> [10]Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    >> [11]https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>    >
>    >
>    _______________________________________________
>    Coral-List mailing list
>    [12]Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    [13]https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> References
>    1. mailto:douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
>    2. mailto:riskmj at mcmaster.ca
>    3. mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    4. mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    5. mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    6. mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    7. mailto:douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
>    8. mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>    9. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231817
>   10. mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>   11. https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>   12. mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>   13. https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
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