[Coral-List] Bleaching

Austin Bowden-Kerby abowdenkerby at gmail.com
Mon Apr 18 02:04:30 UTC 2022

Dear Bill and Steve,

Please name the restoration efforts being promoted as quick fix solutions-
if you know of any please point them out!  Here and now- please!  Don't be
shy, or polite- if any org or institution is misleading people by saying
that they have a quick fix solution to coral reef decline that makes
climate action less urgent, single them out, but please don't cast doubt on
the entire coral restoration field.  Even if not intentioned and with your
disclaimers, we have been burned so many times in the past that any heat at
all is excruciating!

I have on this list recently called out at least three publications for
reporting on the decimated reefs of Kiribati with a positive twist!  They
all celebrated a so-called recovery and/or evidence of adaptation in the
titles, while glossing over the horrific reality of the local extinction of
>200 coral species, and a total community shift on the one 'recovering'
atoll- from Acopora dominated before the 30 months of bleaching over 5
years, to a coral community dominated by *Porites rus*.  Total species
shift, low biodiversity, and mass extinction of species, and they glossed
it all over!  This amounts to misleading the world that coral reefs will be
able to cope with climate change just fine!  And so now the government of
Kiribati believes that everything is going to be just fine, and
these officials must think I am an alarmist kook!   The scientific
community has failed Kiribati, in spite of it being the leading edge of the
collapse of coral reefs from mass bleaching, with only 5 atolls out of 33
even visited and sampled since their collapse in 2015-16.

I am calling some of you on this list out for perpetuating a continuing and
oppressive negative generalization about restoration, as it negatively
impacts some very good work that is vital for the future survival of coral
species and coral reefs.  Please either be specific about a particular
article you read or a specific project, or stop it!   This general
negativism about restoration continues to impact many good efforts that you
may not be aware of.  One example of coral restoration that has been highly
effective is in the Caribbean, where the small efforts in multiple
countries have turned around the near extinction and the multiple local
extinctions of Acropora corals in the wider Caribbean region.  This work is
responsible for a large portion of coral biomass and restored Acropora
breeding populations in the region, and has been highly successful. It has
not been a quick-fix, and because the decline was mostly due to disease and
hurricanes, it does not solve the impacts of climate change, and no one is
saying that it does!

Perhaps this sort of negativity is cultural and simply reflects the
pervasive negativity which has become the dominant culture of academia in
the USA? Or perhaps you are referring to what is happening in Florida and
GBR, and the various flashy high tech solutions being proposed and funded
by millions of dollars there?  Please realize that none of our work in the
developing world is along those lines. We have not seen any big funds
either, perhaps because our potential donors are impacted by your

>From my experience doing this for longer than anyone in both the Caribbean
and South Pacific, most restoration in the developing world nations is very
poorly funded, and it is being carried out by small-scale NGOs working with
communities, and on a shoestring as a service to the world, as acts of love
and points of light in a gloomy and depressing time. The goal of most of
these efforts now is to keep declining coral species alive where they are
dying out, and to maintain these species in a healthy and reproductive
condition, knowing that the struggle has just begun, foreseeing a future of
increasing heat waves, and hopefully working on strategies to get the more
heat adapted corals out of the hottest reef areas and into cooler reefs, as
insurance for their future survival.

In the less developed world, there has been essentially no coral focused
action by governments, neither by the scientific community, nor by the big
NGOs, with very few exceptions, to secure coral species from decline. Local
people have grown tired of seeing their reefs decline, and they want to do
something about it and to get involved.  Fragments of Hope in Belize:
https://fragmentsofhope.org/  Corals for Conservation in Fiji:
www.corals4conservation.org and the Coral Gardeners in Moorea:
www.coralgardeners.org and many other coral focused organizations have
formed in this vacuum of inaction, and there has been much success in spite
of opposition from "well meaning but misguided" scientists.

If you think that coral species and coral reef restoration efforts need
more science, we agree-, so please come help!  Stop criticizing and start
acting!  All those with a "humble attitude of learning" are welcome- the
culture of academic arrogance that sometimes prevails is not part of our
operational culture in the islands. We can offer housing and boat support
in our Fiji sites for seasoned researchers and grad students who are
serious about focusing on the outcomes of facilitated natural recovery and
coral based restoration work.  We have sites in seven Pacific Island
countries so far, but due to a lack of human resources and funds, minimal
science is being conducted alongside the work. We see some amazing results
and natural synergies, but often with only a few photos to back
observations up.

It is strikingly clear now that science will not save the planet- people
will save the planet, and only some of those people will be scientists.
All of the amazing work that coral reef scientists have done and are doing
on coral reefs, all the incredible diverse species and amazing
relationships, now stand gravely threatened, and so all of this collection
of information, should corals and coral reefs become extinct, will become
rather useless paleontology.  We will only know what was lost.  We are on
the leading edge of the planetary collapse and 6th extinction- why do we
pretend that everything is normal?

In our coral reef adaptation/ restoration sites, we are operating with
mostly unpublished yet so far highly effective strategies and methods.  Now
in partnership with the Coral Gardeners and others for a regional youth
focused strategy, we are refocusing to empower island kids to save coral
species from dying out in their reefs over the next 30-50 years, providing
the strategies, tools, training and hopefully materials and funds that they
need for effectiveness. Translocation of corals from hot to cooler reefs is
just one of five adaptation strategies, which are frankly more adaptation
focused than restoration focused at this critical time in history:

Thanks for listening,


Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD
Corals for Conservation
P.O. Box 4649 Samabula, Fiji Islands
TEDx talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PRLJ8zDm0U

Teitei Livelihoods Centre
Km 20 Sigatoka Valley Road, Fiji Islands
(679) 938-6437

On Thu, Apr 14, 2022 at 12:30 AM Steve Mussman via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Bill, you have clearly pointed out an inconvenient aspect of all this that
> many here would prefer to avoid.
> Although there are a number of restoration efforts worthy of praise that
> nobly fulfill John’s expectations, some of the most prominent and
> well-funded projects have chosen instead to strategically avoid placing due
> emphasis on the imperative need to address climate change and other major
> stressors. Until this changes, I’m afraid we will continue to miss out on
> what could be a “potent political opportunity” to utilize perhaps the most
> visible aspect of the coral sciences to bring about much needed change.
> Regards,
> Steve
> On 4/12/22, 7:51 AM, Bill Allison via Coral-List <
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> "... reef restoration programs acting in concert provide a potent
> political opportunity to influence their national governments to support
> the UN-based global efforts to control greenhouse gases and other factors
> inimical to the survival of coral reefs."
> OR
> "reef restoration programs" masquerading as a solution provide a rationale
> for kicking the addressing-causes-can down the road.
> "cheers"
> Bill
> On Tue, Apr 12, 2022 at 6:59 AM John Ogden via Coral-List <
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> > Dear Friends on Coral-List,
> >
> > The good news that Austin Bowden-Kirby highlights in his recent post
> > concerns the global growth surge in reef restoration schemes and programs
> > and shows clearly that people care about coral reefs and are unwilling to
> > wait for government to act and watch them die without trying to do
> > something to help. This kind of hands-on volunteerism is too rare and
> > important not to take full advantage of on the political stage. In my
> > opinion Coral Gardeners and other reef restoration programs acting in
> > concert provide a potent political opportunity to influence their
> national
> > governments to support the UN-based global efforts to control greenhouse
> > gases and other factors inimical to the survival of coral reefs.
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