[Coral-List] Musings on the future for reefs

Risk, Michael riskmj at mcmaster.ca
Wed Jul 1 17:19:01 UTC 2020

Hello Peter.

It is hard to be optimistic: about the future of reefs, about society's ability to react, and about scientists' ability to speak with one voice so that problems may be addressed.

As far as I know, the first suggestion that triage should be applied to reefs was by me in 1994 (Coastal Zone Conference) and later that year at Ginsburg's Health Hazards and History meeting in MIami. I got in a discussion with Ginsburg at the time (that may be where Bob got the idea)-I suggested that all efforts to save the reefs of Florida should be abandoned, because they were doomed to failure. He disagreed violently. Look how well that turned out for him. (nil nisi bonum...)
From: Coral-List [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] on behalf of Peter Sale via Coral-List [coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov]
Sent: June 30, 2020 12:08 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Musings on the future for reefs

Hi listers,
In 1999, Bob Buddemeier gave a paper at a conference in Fort Lauderdale titled: "Is it time to give up?"  It was subsequently published in Bulletin of Marine Science (R.W. Buddemeier, 2001, Bulletin of Marine Science 69: 317-326).  In his paper, so long ago, Bob argued that it was now time for triage - the situation for reefs was so serious globally that we had to prioritize our efforts, focusing conservation actions on those reefs most likely to benefit, and recognizing that some reefs were certain to disappear.  At the time I thought he was being a bit alarmist.  I was wrong.

Needless to say, we did not triage.  We muddled on, and for the most part we are still muddling, hoping for the best, and documenting the progressive decline of reefs around the world.  Yes, I know there are some among us who are valiantly seeking new ways to protect reefs, repair reefs, sustain reefs, and I am not claiming any of us is callously dismissing the tragedy unfolding.  And even some actively promoting triage.  But mostly we muddle, and the politicians ignore the problem.

Anyhow, with a book coming out in early 2021 (for the public, not a scientific treatise), I thought I'd better take another look, because in the book I say clearly that the chance of having many reefs, resembling the reefs I knew at the start of my career, still around in 2050 or so is mind-numbingly unlikely.  Was I overstating?  Would we find by 2021 that all is going to be just fine for reefs in the future?  So I've taken a quick look, including looking at the latest info from the GBR 2020 bleaching and a couple of papers re the Caribbean, and I fear I may have been too gentle, too optimistic...  If you want to skim the story with me, its in my blog at http://www.petersalebooks.com/?p=2869  Nothing super new here, just some painful reflection on reef science's very own shifting baseline syndrome (though I don't call it that).

Now, if countries can stimulate their economies post-covid with some GREEN infrastructure, maybe we can have some reefs later in the century.

Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca
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