[Coral-List] Bleaching

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 19 13:19:21 UTC 2022

Hi Austin,

I am opposed to calling anyone out on list. I’ve done it before, but no longer believe it is an effective way to affect change. Better to raise questions about specific policies than to resort to what could be viewed as an ad hominem attack. To set the record straight, I was actually trying to be careful not to cast doubt on the entire coral restoration field. Please read my post again. What I wrote (in response to John Ogden’s post) was that “some of the most prominent and well-funded projects” are missing out on what John referred to as a “potent political opportunity” to help build the consensus needed to pressure national governments to deal effectively with climate change and other major stressors. Perhaps Les’s point reveals the essence of our discordance (if there still is any). Commenting that “reef restoration under the terms described by John Ogden can be very positive, though it carries the risk of engendering complacency. All solutions divorced from root causes do”. For I don’t view restoration as a solution, but as a tool - and I don’t understand why any restoration project would choose to divorce or distance itself from root causation.



On 4/17/22, 10:04 PM, Austin Bowden-Kerby <abowdenkerby at gmail.com> wrote:

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 negativity?

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 (http://www.corals4conservation.org/) and the Coral Gardeners in Moorea: www.coralgardeners.org (http://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: https://reefresilience.org/case-studies/south-pacific-restoration/

Thanks for listening,


Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD

Corals for Conservation

P.O. Box 4649 Samabula, Fiji Islands

https://www.corals4conservation.org (https://www.corals4conservation.org/)


TEDx talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PRLJ8zDm0U

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-response-to-massive-coral-bleaching/ (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-response-to-massive-coral-bleaching/)

Teitei Livelihoods Centre

Km 20 Sigatoka Valley Road, Fiji Islands

(679) 938-6437

http:/www. (http://permacultureglobal.com/projects/1759-sustainable-environmental-livelihoods-farm-Fiji)teiteifiji.org (http://teiteifiji.org/)



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



On 4/12/22, 7:51 AM, Bill Allison via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov (mailto: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."


"reef restoration programs" masquerading as a solution provide a rationale

for kicking the addressing-causes-can down the road.



On Tue, Apr 12, 2022 at 6:59 AM John Ogden via Coral-List <

coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov (mailto: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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