Coral-list discussion: #ChangeGlobalBehavior

This comment from Nohora Galvis posted on the NOAA Coral-list is part of a discussion of how to reduce the impacts of climate change. It is the best summary I have read yet:

Fundación ICRI Colombia en Pro de los Arrecifes Coralinos via

Dec 2 (1 day ago)

Dear Leslie,

This is about all, as all of us are decision makers. Of course, the
main responsibility goes to the top decision makers who work in our
representation to rule the world by applying new regulations and
enforce them. It is about the communities and Civil Society who should
be listened without discrimination to allow them to speak up (Civil
Rights) and request as many times as needed to promote better
conservation of coral reefs. It is about scientists who should open to
other scenarios to publish their findings e.g. social media, without
feeling that they are losing rigor by expressing that they also FEEL
passion about coral reef conservation.

It is also about organizers of international meetings who allow online
participation to reduce the environmental / economic cost of
travelling. It is about Environmental International and National
Organizations who should allow participation of scientific based
advocacy. It is about every one of the human beings who decide what to
buy, how to move from one place to other, who recycle, who diminish
consumption, who update their information to become more environmental
friendly, who are open to advice to improve local and global behavior.

At #COP21 We are starting to #ChangeGlobalBehavior !!!

All the best,
Nohora Galvis

Coral-list: Jeffrey Maynard announces Nature Climate Change publication “Projections of Climate Conditions that increase coral disease susceptibility and pathogen abundance and virulence.”

We’d like to bring your attention to a paper recently published in *Nature
Climate Change *titled: *Projections of climate conditions that increase
coral disease susceptibility and pathogen abundance and virulence. *

We present and compare climate model projections of temperature conditions
that will increase coral susceptibility to disease, pathogen abundance and
pathogen virulence under both moderate (RCP 4.5) and fossil fuel aggressive
(RCP 8.5) emissions scenarios. We also compare projections for the onset of
disease-conducive conditions and severe annual coral bleaching, and produce
a disease risk summary that combines climate stress with stress caused by
local human activities.

Some highlight results:

1. Disease is as likely to cause coral mortality as bleaching in the coming
decades. As evidence of this, at 96% of reef locations at least 2 of the 3
temperature conditions examined occur before annual severe coral bleaching
is projected to occur.

2. There are areas that meet 2 or all 3 of the temperature conditions
examined and have high or very high anthropogenic stress. These
are priority locations for reducing stress caused by local human activities
and testing management interventions to reduce disease impacts.

3. The emissions scenarios RCP8.5 and 4.5 take time to diverge and there is
little difference between the scenarios for the timing of the various
disease-promoting conditions being met. This is further evidence that
reducing stress caused by local human activities will be critically
important to reducing disease impacts in the coming decades.

The role of disease as a significant driver of future reef community
composition is under-appreciated, especially in the Indo-Pacific. Our paper
strongly suggests disease needs to be given greater consideration in
management planning. Further, we need to develop more early warning tools
for disease similar to the few already developed and the tools available
for monitoring bleaching risk from NOAA Coral Reef Watch.

The article can be accessed from the front page here:

A short story about the article:

Our author team: Jeff Maynard, Ruben van Hooidonk, Mark Eakin, Marjetta
Puotinen, Melissa Garren, Gareth Williams, Scott Heron, Joleah Lamb,
Ernesto Weil, Bette Willis, and Drew Harvell.

*Funders: NOAA Climate Program Office and US National Science Foundation.

Jeffrey A. Maynard
Research Faculty – Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell
Research Scientist – CRIOBE & EPHE/CNRS of Moorea, Polynesia and Paris,
Manager – Marine Applied Research Center, North Carolina.
P (mobile): +1 (910) 616-1096
Skype: jefmaynard
Coral-List mailing list

Coral-list: Oceans 2015 Initiative An updated synthesis of the observed and projected impacts of climate change on physical and biological processes in the oceans (Part I) and An updated understanding of the observed and projected impacts of ocean warming and acidification on marine and coastal socioeconomic activities/sectors

Part I

Part II

It is my pleasure to send you the links (free access) to two reports of the Oceans 2015 Initiative. These reports summarize the key findings of the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report (AR5) and bring in newer literature to assess the impacts of ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and sea level rise, linking ocean physics and chemistry to biological processes and ecosystem functions (Part I), and ecosystem services and ocean-related human activities (Part II). These reports are the first two of several items being developed to provide input to the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Oceans 2015 Initiative, Part I. An updated synthesis of the observed and projected impacts of climate change on physical and biological processes in the oceans — E. Howes, F. Joos, M. Eakin, J.-P. Gattuso —,Part-I-An-updated-synthesis-of-the-observed-and-projected-impacts-of-climate-change-on-physical-and

The Oceans 2015 Initiative, Part II. An updated understanding of the observed and projected impacts of ocean warming and acidification on marine and coastal socioeconomic activities/sectors — L. Weatherdon, A. Rogers, R. Sumaila, A. Magnan, W.L. Cheung —,Part-II-An-updated-understanding-of-the-observed-and-projected-impacts-of-ocean-warming-and-acidific

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division

NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
College Park, MD 20740
Office: (301) 683-3320 Fax: (301) 683-3301
Mobile: (301) 502-8608 SOCD Office: (301) 683-3300

““We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.”
President Barack Obama, June 17, 2014

CBC News: Algae on coral in UAE ‘gives hope’ against bleaching

Technology & Science

Persian Gulf algae prevents coral bleaching in seawater that can reach 36 Celsius in summer

CBC News Posted: Feb 27, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015 5:00 AM ET


Algae living on coral in the Persian Gulf appear to protect the host coral from dying off. Seawater in the area gets so warm the same temperatures would kill off reefs elsewhere. (Jorg Wiedenmann, John Burt)

Scientists have discovered a new species of algae in the United Arab Emirates that helps corals survive in the warmest seawater temperatures on the planet.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the New York University Abu Dhabi described the “heat-tolerant species” in a paper published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

‘It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought.’- Jorg Wiedenmann, Coral Reef Laboratory at University of Southampton. Ocean waters in the Persian Gulf can reach temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius at the peak of summer — warm enough to kill off corals found anywhere else in the world.

How Gulf corals manage to thrive in such habitats likely has something to do with the nutrient-rich algae living in their tissue, the researchers believe.

It seems the algae living off Gulf corals in a symbiotic relationship give their coral hosts a heat-resistant edge not found in reefs elsewhere.

Climate change threat

“When analyzed by alternative molecular biological approaches, we found pronounced differences that set this heat-tolerant species clearly aside,” the researchers said in a statement.

In reference to its ability to survive unusually high temperatures, the researchers named the algae Symbiodinium thermophilum.

Higher water temperatures often cause corals to lose their colour and die, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. (Ove Hoegh-Guldberg/Centre for Marine Studies/The University of Queensland)

Algae are known to deliver nutrition to the coral they inhabit. However, algae are also sensitive to environmental changes, with even slight increases in seawater temperatures putting them at risk.

Loss of algae on corals in the symbiotic relationship often results in “coral bleaching,” in which the white skeletons of corals are left exposed once their algae tissue thins or dies.

“In Gulf corals, both the coral host and the associated algal partners need to withstand the high seawater temperatures,” Jörg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton Ocean, said in a statement.

John Burt, with NYU Abu Dhabi, said the team confirmed the new type of algae is prevalent year-round across several dominant species found near the coast of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

Wiedenmann said more research must be done to better understand how the Gulf’s coral reefs can withstand extreme temperatures, in order to get a better grasp of how reefs elsewhere are dying as a result of climate change.

“It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought,” Wiedenmann said. “However, it is not only heat that troubles coral reefs. Pollution and nutrient enrichment, overfishing and coastal development also represent severe threats to their survival.”

The Guardian: Worst ‘coral bleaching’ in nearly 20 years may be underway, scientists warn
By Andrew Freedman Dec 22, 2014

Clouds of reef fish and corals, French frigate shoals, NWHI

Colorful reef fish – Pennantfish, Pyramid and Milletseed butterflyfish – school in great numbers at Rapture Reef, French Frigate Shoals, Hawaii. Image: James Watt/Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

In 1998, one of the most powerful El Niño events on record sent Pacific Ocean temperatures soaring to such heights that almost 20% of the world’s coral reefs experienced significant bleaching. Some of the reefs have never fully recovered from that episode.

Now, more than 16 years later, global warming appears to be doing what it used to require a super El Niño to do — push ocean temperatures so high across the Pacific Ocean that it sets off a major coral bleaching event, scientists warned Monday.

Coral reefs, vital marine ecosystems which are home to 25% of the world’s marine life and help provide food and livelihoods for millions of people, may be heading into one of the largest coral bleaching events on record, due to record warm ocean temperatures. This year is virtually guaranteed to set the record for the warmest year since instrumental records began in 1880, largely due to record high global ocean temperatures.

Corals are invertebrates that often grow in colonies in symbiosis with algae, known as zooxanthellae, which live in their tissues. It is these algae that give the corals their vibrant colors, and healthy coral reef ecosystems in turn provide food and shelter for a plethora of marine species. When ocean temperatures get too warm for too long a period of time, corals will expel the algae — giving them a sudden eviction notice. Once they do this, the corals turn a ghostly white color, which is where the term “bleaching” comes from.

Coral Bleaching Hawaii
Image: AP Photo/NOAA and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Courtney Couch

This 2014 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology shows bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The pale coral is bleached due to thermal stress, while the lavender-colored coral is healthy.

Studies show that coral reefs can survive individual bleaching events, but they are subject to higher mortality rates during such events, depending on the coral species and other factors. Climate studies show that warming ocean temperatures and acidifying oceans, due to the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, pose major challenges for the viability of tropical coral reefs around the world.

Researchers monitoring the health of coral reefs around the world are sounding the alarm.

“As the ocean becomes more acidified the bleaching threshold for corals drops, more carbon dioxide makes corals more sensitive to thermal stress,” says Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch program, in an interview. “Not only are we seeing more thermal stress … but we’re making them more sensitive at the same time.”

Ocean Temperature Trends

Global average ocean surface temperatures for the January through November period from 1880 to 2014, showing 2014 as the warmest such period on record. The solid line is the long-term linear trend.
Image: NOAA

This year has been anything but average for ocean temperatures, particularly across the Pacific, where the worst coral bleaching events have been seen so far. Global average ocean temperatures were the warmest of any month on record in September.

Temperatures were so warm during that month that it broke the all-time record for the highest departure from average for any month since 1880, at 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above average. August and June also set records for the warmest ocean temperatures on record, and the year is expected to set a similar milestone.

The fact that this warmth is occurring without a declared El Niño — though a weak event is predicted for this winter — strikes climate scientists as a clear sign that we’re now living in a new era with added heat in the climate system, making temperatures such as we’ve seen in 2014 easier to reach.

“We’re seeing a rising background temperatures, we’re seeing this increase in the thermal content of the oceans and as that happens it doesn’t take as nearly as big of an event to set off this chain of bleaching,” Eakin told Mashable.

Already in 2014, scientists say, widespread coral bleaching has occurred in Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii and Florida. And computer models show widespread coral bleaching is likely throughout the tropics in the next several months, imperiling ecosystems from Madagascar to Australia.

“The bleaching event this year was fairly substantial,” said Steven Johnson and Lyza Johnston, who are biologists with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a U.S. territory, in an email conversation. They said coral bleaching was widespread in the Northern Mariana Islands during the past year, and “mass mortality” was observed from a bleaching event in late summer and early fall between the islands of Pagan and Saipan.

Based on NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch products, Johnson and Johnston said in a joint response to inquiries from Mashable, “we expected we might see some bleaching in the northern islands this summer, but the extent and severity of the bleaching seen on Maug was unexpected.” (Maug is an island in the far north of the Commonwealth.)

With even warmer ocean temperatures predicted for the first part of 2015, the picture looks grim for corals that are especially sensitive to heat stress.

“We’re going to continue to see a pattern of high thermal stress that really follows the same sort of time sequence and movement of 1998 major event,”

“We’re going to continue to see a pattern of high thermal stress that really follows the same sort of time sequence and movement of 1998 major event,” says NOAA’s Eakin. “Everything we’re seeing says that same pattern is going to happen again this year.”

In the Mariana Islands, officials are looking warily at the latest climate outlooks. “We are very concerned about the possible impacts that an El Niño event in 2015 might have on the coral reefs of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, especially given the losses that have already occurred due to thermal stress over the last two years across the archipelago,” Johnson and Johnston said.

As of December, parts of every major ocean basin showed record high temperatures, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

The latest NOAA Coral Reef Watch outlook shows bleaching alerts from Nauru through the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Fiji and Vanuatu, westward to near Papua New Guinea. Other alerts are in place along the eastern Australia coastline between Brisbane and Sydney, and in the southern Indian Ocean near the east coast of Madagascar. Other areas of concern include the southeastern South American coast, and parts of the South Atlantic Ocean between South America and Africa.

The Coral Reef Watch product is based on satellite-derived sea surface temperatures as well as scientific research about the susceptibility of different corals to thermal stress.

So far in 2014, rare and significant coral bleaching has taken place in Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which is an area of about 140,000 square miles of protected oceans.

Coral Reef Watch

Coral Reef Watch bleaching outlook for the winter, showing areas with a 90% likelihood of seeing some degree of bleaching.
Image: NOAA

“We did have some very significant bleaching in some parts of the monument,” says NOAA fisheries ecologist Randy Kosaki, chief scientist for the National Monument. He said in some parts of Papahanaumokuakea, where waters are shallower, up to 90% of the corals have been damaged. Even coral species thought to be bleaching-resistant proved susceptible.

This was particularly the case in the vicinity of Lisianski Island, about 1,000 miles northwest of Honolulu.

Species such as the colorful Butterfly fish, which relies on corals for their food, have temporarily disappeared from bleached areas, Kosaki told Mashable. “They’re kind of the glamor fish of the coral reef world.”

This island, he says, demonstrates that the impacts from manmade climate change can reach even the most remote places on Earth. Scientists have not had a chance to survey the region via ship since September. But when they next reach the area, they are expecting to find “significant mortality” among the corals, Kosaki says.

Some bleaching was also noted near Kauai and Oahu, where waters tend to be cooler and bleaching is rarely seen, Kosaki said.

Because of the El Niño that was originally forecast to develop by early Fall, Eakin says scientists were expecting widespread coral bleaching events to take place in 2015. So the 2014 damage took coral watchers by surprise.

“We were concerned about bleaching that was going to be happening in 2015,” Eakin told Mashable. “We didn’t see 2014 coming.”

Now that he has seen it, plus the temperature outlooks, Eakin says, “I’m even more worried about 2015.”

h/t The Guardian
Special thanks to: Doug Fenner and the NOAA Coral-list

Coral-list–Center for Biologic Diversity: 20 Newly Listed Species via ESA

I’m a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the
authors of the petition to list the 83 corals. I wanted to respond to some
of the issues that have been raised about the 20 corals that were recently
listed, including the Center’s role, what the listing means, and steps

The Center petitioned to list 83 corals in 2009 to provide added
conservation tools to help these corals survive and recover in the face of
the growing threats from ocean warming, ocean acidification, disease, and
the myriad of other stressors they face. The ESA will give these corals (1)
protection of essential habitat in US waters, (2) a comprehensive recovery
plan with actions to recover these species, such as reducing ocean warming
and acidification impacts, mitigating local stressors, and implementing
coral restoration and ecosystem conservation activities; (3) reduction of
harms from federal government activities including energy projects,
discharge of pollution from point sources, non-point source pollution,
dredging, pile-driving, setting of water quality standards, vessel traffic,
aquaculture facilities, military activities, and fisheries management
practices; and (4) increased public attention and research momentum at a
time when more conservation action, research, and awareness about the coral
crisis is urgently needed.

A number of people on this list have already suggested helpful ideas for
research priorities and recovery actions for these newly listed corals. We
look forward to working with coral scientists, NMFS, NGOs, and others
interested in coral conservation to discuss ideas for research and
conservation priorities to make ESA protection as meaningful as possible for
these corals.

Here are some responses to questions that have been raised on the listserve
about the Center’s role in the coral listing process and what the ESA
listings mean:

What is the Center for Biological Diversity?

For those of you who don’t know us, the Center is a non-profit conservation
organization dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places
through science, policy, education and environmental law. Our organization
is made up of scientists, organizers, campaigners, policy analysts,
conservation advocates, communications staff, support staff, and
environmental lawyers who work to make sure our keystone environmental laws
are implemented and enforced. Everyone here is very dedicated to making
positive conservation change, and is very knowledgeable about the species
and ecosystems they work to protect.

Our Climate and Oceans programs worked together on this petition. Our
Climate program focuses on protecting species threatened with extinction
from climate change and limiting the carbon pollution that threatens them.
Our Oceans program works to protect marine species in US waters from a suite
a threats, and has long worked to reduce the threat of ocean acidification.

The Center has worked on coral conservation efforts in US waters for more
than a decade. We petitioned to list the elkhorn and staghorn corals in
2004, and went to court to make sure these corals got critical habitat
protection and a recovery plan when NMFS was overdue on issuing these

How did the Center select the 83 corals?

We selected the 83 corals based on (1) their designation as vulnerable,
endangered, or critically endangered by the IUCN based on the analysis by
Kent Carpenter and co-authors, summarized in their 2008 Science paper, (2)
their occurrence in US waters where ESA protections can provide the most
benefit, and (3) studies indicating that they are declining and/or
particularly vulnerable to threats. We wrote and submitted a 198-page
scientific petition in 2009 that cited more than 200 scientific studies.

We recognize that may be disagreement about the species that we petitioned
for and the species that NMFS ultimately listed. People may have wanted more
species, fewer species, or different species listed. We petitioned for the
83 corals based on the scientific evidence available in 2009. Coral
scientists and other citizens always have the option to petition NMFS to
designate additional corals for protection

How does the petition process work?

The ESA allows any citizen to submit a scientific petition to our wildlife
protection agencies, FWS or NMFS, requesting that the agency evaluate the
scientific evidence for protecting that species under the ESA as
“endangered” (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant
portion of its range) or “threatened” (likely to become endangered in the
foreseeable future). NMFS and FWS can and should initiate the listing
process on their own, but this is uncommon. After receiving a petition, the
agency must determine whether the information in the petition and in the
agency’s possession is sufficient to show that the species may be threatened
or endangered. If so, the agency initiates a scientific status review of
that species to determine whether it merits listing, and then takes an
additional year to finalize a proposed listing.

In the case of the corals, NMFS determined that 82 of the 83 petitioned
species merited a scientific status review. Based on an extended status
review and public comment period, NMFS proposed 66 corals for listing as
threatened or endangered, and additionally proposed uplisting for elkhorn
and staghorn corals from threatened to endangered. After an additional
public comment period and review, NMFS finalized a threatened listing for 20
coral species.

What does the ESA listing mean for the 20 corals?

The ESA provides mandatory conservation tools to increase protections for
listed corals. These include:

(1) Protection of critical habitat in US waters.

(2) A science-based recovery plan with specific management and research
actions to help each listed species survive and recover.

(3) Protection from federal government activities that could harm the corals
and their habitat. US government agencies must consult with federal
biologists to ensure that their actions do not harm listed corals. Through
this consultation process, federal agencies whose activities could harm
corals and their habitat, for example through water pollution, dredging,
commercial fishing, and coastal construction, must analyze their impacts on
corals and take steps to reduce or eliminate them, thereby minimizing
stressors on coral reefs.

(4) Raising greater public awareness about threats to corals to mobilize
support for conservation action. The fact that 22 corals in US waters have
been identified as at risk of extinction primarily due to ocean warming,
ocean acidification, and disease sends a strong message on the need for
meaningful action to reduce carbon pollution at the national and
international level.

Studies have shown the ESA to be effective at preventing extinction and
recovering listed species. The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99% of
species that have been listed to date. One study estimated that 227 listed
plants and animals would have disappeared by 2006 if not for the ESA’s
protections. A recent analysis concluded that the ESA has been successful in
recovering listed species: 90 percent of sampled species are recovering at
the rate specified by their recovery plans

What has the ESA done to help the elkhorn and staghorn coral that were
listed in 2006?

The elkhorn and staghorn corals, which were listed as threatened in 2006,
have received a number of important ESA protections:

(1) The designation of almost 3,000 square miles of protected critical
habitat in US waters in 2008.

(2) The issuance of a draft recovery plan in 2014, which is now open for
public comment through October 20:

(3) US federal agencies have been required to modify a wide range of
projects to reduce harms to these corals, including mitigation to harbor
construction projects, the laying of undersea cable, fisheries management
plans, and park management plans.

(4) ESA protection has allowed citizens to challenge government actions that
are harming corals. For example, the Center and allies challenged NMFS’s
authorization of targeted fishing for parrotfish and other algae-eating reef
fish that threatens the health of elkhorn and staghorn corals. In 2013, the
court determined that NMFS must do a better job monitoring the effects of
commercial fishing on elkhorn and staghorn coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands
and Puerto Rico.

How does ESA protection affect research activities?

ESA listing typically directs more research attention and funding to listed
species. The number of published studies on a species often increases
significantly following a listing. In addition, the scientific status review
during the ESA listing process and the recovery plan developed after listing
identify key research gaps and research priorities that can mobilize
research attention and funding.

Researchers do not need a permit from NMFS for research or enhancement
activities for the 20 newly listed corals:

What are next steps forward for listed corals?

Several important next steps forward include:

(1) identifying research gaps and research priorities to better characterize
the natural history, population status and trends, threats, and conservation
priorities for these corals;

(2) identifying and designating critical habitat areas essential to help
these corals survive and recover, including occupied and unoccupied areas
and climate refugia;

(3) identifying and implementing the suite of recovery actions needed to
help each species survive and recover. For example, the 2014 draft recovery
plan for the elkhorn and staghorn corals includes (a) actions to address
ocean warming and acidification impacts on these species, (b) local threat
reductions and mitigation strategies, (c) in and ex situ conservation and
restoration such as population enhancement through restoration, restocking,
and active management, and (d) ecosystem-level actions to improve habitat
quality and restore keystone reef species and functional processes.

(4) raising public awareness about the coral crisis and what we can do to
help as scientists, policy makers, conservation practitioners, and concerned


Shaye Wolf, Ph.D.

Climate Science Director

Center for Biological Diversity

Huffington Post: 20 New Species Of Coral Listed As Threatened

The Center for Biologic Diversity deserves the credit for starting the process with NOAA to designate these corals. DeeVon

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is protecting 20 types of colorful coral by putting them on the list of threatened species, partly because of climate change.

As with the polar bear, much of the threat to the coral species is because of future expected problems due to global warming, said David Bernhart, an endangered-species official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These coral species are already being hurt by climate change “but not to the point that they are endangered yet,” he said.

Climate change is making the oceans warmer, more acidic and helping with coral diseases like bleaching — and those “are the major threats” explaining why the species were put on the threatened list, Bernhart said in a Wednesday conference call.

Other threats include overfishing, runoff from the land, and some coastal construction, but those are lesser, Bernhart said.

Five species can be found off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They include pillar coral, rough cactus coral and three species of star coral. The other 15 are in the Pacific Ocean area near Guam and American Samoa, but not Hawaii.

The agency looked at listing 66 species, but Wednesday listed only 20 for various reasons. All are called threatened, not endangered. Two coral species were already listed.

Coral reefs, which are in trouble worldwide, are important fish habitats.

The agency did not create any new rules yet that would prevent coral from being harvested or damaged.

“There is a growing body of expert scientists talking about a risk of mass extinction in the sea and on land,” said Elliott Norse, founder and chief scientist of the Marine Conservation Institute of Seattle. Coral “are organisms on the front line of anything that humans do.”

“I hope this wakes people up and we don’t have to lose more coral,” Norse said.




Marine Pollution Bulletin: Zone Tropical Coastal Oceans; Manage them More Like Land

Hi coral-listers,
Zone Tropical Coastal Oceans; Manage Them More Like Land
I want to draw attention to a new article just published on line at Marine
Pollution Bulletin. It results from a project funded by the United
Nations University’s institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH)
with some assistance from the Univ of Queensland Global Change Institute.
It is open access and found at
In this article a geographically widely dispersed group with diverse
expertise and with many decades of accumulated experience in tropical
coastal and fisheries management makes five key points:
1. One fifth of humanity live within 100km of a tropical shore; the
current 1.36 billion will swell to 1.95 billion by 2050. Many are
directly dependent on adjacent coastal waters for food and livelihoods
2. Globally, the tropical coastal ocean continues to be degraded by a
suite of human impacts, mostly local but now also global through climate
change and ocean acidification
3. Current policies and procedures for improving management of these
important ecosystems, including their fisheries, almost always fail,
although there are the inevitable small bright spots that flicker briefly
and then usually fade; we spend too much time congratulating ourselves
over the brief flickers of good news, while failing to notice that the
stresses on these ecosystems grow worse year by year
4. Current policies are not failing because we lack the technological
expertise, but because of a complex of issues wrapped up in social
structures, traditions, cultural and religious belief systems,
conventional ways of doing things, governmental and legal structures,
corruption, misplaced priorities, and lack of political will. Together
these lead to short-term thinking, planning and implementation,
small-scale projects, and failure of communities, stakeholders and
governments to really commit to success.
5. Needed is a more holistic, appropriately scaled (in both time and
space) approach, appropriate to the particular socio-political structure
present, to address management failure. This absolutely requires
committed leadership within the community, but it also requires
significant changes in how plans to improve management are designed and
As a way forward we suggest it is time to recognize we need to begin to
zone the coastal ocean for competing uses, much as we do the land. We
advocate considerably expanded use of marine spatial planning (MSP) as an
effective, objective tool for doing this. We also suggest that MSP can
serve as a Trojan horse to build the more integrated, holistic and
appropriately scaled approach to management which is essential for real,
lasting success. There is a need for serious reflection and changes to
policy by virtually all sectors engaged in helping countries improve their
environmental management. Otherwise we condemn a large portion of
humanity to ever less quality of life.
As I said, its open access so anyone can get a copy. It’s at
We hope it will provoke vigorous discussion and real change because more
of the same is simply not good enough.

Peter Sale

+1-705-764-3360 FAX @PeterSale3

Special thanks to Coral-list at

Annual Climate change influences on marine infectious disease: implications for management and society by Burge, Eakin, Friedman, Froelich, Hershberger, Hoffman, Petes, Preager, Weil, Willis, Ford and Harvell.

2014. *Annual Reviews in Marine Science*. 6: 249-277

Available online:

Climate Change Influences on Marine Infectious Diseases: Implications for Management and Society
Annual Review of Marine Science
Vol. 6: 249-277 (Volume publication date January 2014)
First published online as a Review in Advance on June 27, 2013
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010213-135029

Colleen A. Burge,1 C. Mark Eakin, Carolyn S. Friedman, Brett Froelich, Paul K. Hershberger, Eileen E. Hofmann, Laura E. Petes, Katherine C. Prager, Ernesto Weil, Bette L. Willis, Susan E. Ford, and C. Drew Harvell1
1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853; email:,*


Infectious diseases are common in marine environments, but the effects of a changing climate on marine pathogens are not well understood. Here we review current knowledge about how the climate drives host-pathogen interactions and infectious disease outbreaks. Climate-related impacts on marine diseases are being documented in corals, shellfish, finfish, and humans; these impacts are less clearly linked for other organisms. Oceans and people are inextricably linked, and marine diseases can both directly and indirectly affect human health, livelihoods, and well-being. We recommend an adaptive management approach to better increase the resilience of ocean systems vulnerable to marine diseases in a changing climate. Land-based management methods of quarantining, culling, and vaccinating are not successful in the ocean; therefore, forecasting conditions that lead to outbreaks and designing tools/approaches to influence these conditions may be the best way to manage marine disease.

Special thanks to Coral-list post by Colleen Burge

Common Dreams: Human Assault Pushes Ocean to Limit Unseen in 300 Million Years

Published on Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change,’ warns report. ‘The next mass extinction may have already begun.’
– Jon Queally, staff writer

The news, the evidence that supports it, and the warning that accompanies it could hardly be more dire.

The latest audit by an international team of marine scientists at the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) found that the world’s oceans and marine life are facing an unprecedented threat by combination of industrial pollution, human-driven global warming and climate change, and continued and rampant overfishing.

According to the report, The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals, the degradation of the ocean ecosystem means that its role as Earth’s ‘buffer’ is being seriously compromised. As a result, the authors of the report call for “urgent remedies” because the “rate, speed, and impacts of change in the global ocean are greater, faster, and more imminent than previously thought.”

“[Last week’s] UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.” -Prof. Dan Laffoley, IUCN

Driven by accumulations of carbon, the scientists found, the rate of acidification in the oceans is the highest its been in over 300 million years. Additionally, de-oxygenation–caused by both warming and industrial runoff–is stripping the ocean of its ability to support the plants and animals that live in it.

The combined stressors, according to the report, are “unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.”

Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford, and Scientific Director of IPSO said: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Among the report’s comprehensive findings, the panel identified the following areas as of greatest cause for concern:

• De-oxygenation: the evidence is accumulating that the oxygen inventory of the ocean is progressively declining. Predictions for ocean oxygen content suggest a decline of between 1% and 7% by 2100. This is occurring in two ways: the broad trend of decreasing oxygen levels in tropical oceans and areas of the North Pacific over the last 50 years; and the dramatic increase in coastal hypoxia (low oxygen) associated with eutrophication. The former is caused by global warming, the second by increased nutrient runoff from agriculture and sewage.

• Acidification: If current levels of CO2 release continue we can expect extremely serious consequences for ocean life, and in turn food and coastal protection; at CO2 concentrations of 450-500 ppm (projected in 2030-2050) erosion will exceed calcification in the coral reef building process, resulting in the extinction of some species and decline in biodiversity overall.

• Warming: As made clear by the IPCC, the ocean is taking the brunt of warming in the climate system, with direct and well-documented physical and biogeochemical consequences. The impacts which continued warming is projected to have in the decades to 2050 include: reduced seasonal ice zones, including the disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice by ca. 2037; increasing stratification of ocean layers, leading to oxygen depletion; increased venting of the GHG methane from the Arctic seabed (a factor not considered by the IPCC); and increased incidence of anoxic and hypoxic (low oxygen) events.

• The ‘deadly trio’ of the above three stressors – acidification, warming and deoxygenation – is seriously effecting how productive and efficient the ocean is, as temperatures, chemistry, surface stratification, nutrient and oxygen supply are all implicated, meaning that many organisms will find themselves in unsuitable environments. These impacts will have cascading consequences for marine biology, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens.

• Continued overfishing is serving to further undermine the resilience of ocean systems, and contrary to some claims, despite some improvements largely in developed regions, fisheries management is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems on which marine life depends. In 2012 the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited, of which 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfished levels. A recent global assessment of compliance with Article 7 (fishery management) of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, awarded 60% of countries a “fail” grade, and saw no country identified as being overall “good”.

Regarding the urgency of the crisis, the marine scientists issued a stark warning to world governments, called on leaders to take immediate action, and offered the following steps they said “must” be taken:

• Reduce global C02 emissions to limit temperature rise to less than 2oC, or below 450 CO2e. Current targets for carbon emission reductions are insufficient in terms of ensuring coral reef survival and other biological effects of acidification, especially as there is a time lag of several decades between atmospheric CO2 and CO2 dissolved in the ocean. Potential knock-on effects of climate change in the ocean, such as methane release from melting permafrost, and coral dieback, mean the consequences for human and ocean life could be even worse than presently calculated.

• Ensure effective implementation of community- and ecosystem-based management, favouring small-scale fisheries. Examples of broad-scale measures include introducing true co-management with resource adjacent communities, eliminating harmful subsidies that drive overcapacity, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, banning the most destructive fishing gear, and combating IUU fishing.

• Build a global infrastructure for high seas governance that is fit-for-purpose. Most importantly, secure a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of UNCLOS.

In response to the IPSO study that arrived just one week after the IPCC report on climate change which also highlighted the threat of global warming to the oceans, Professor Dan Laffoley, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses. The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.”

Common Dreams: ‘Inhospitable Oceans’ Acidifying at Rate Unseen in 250 Million Years (or Ever)

Published on Monday, August 26, 2013
New study shows oceans in peril as acidification is happening at rate perhaps never seen in planet’s history
– Jon Queally, staff writer

(Photo: ‘Rough Ocean’/Flickr/Jacqueline Fasser)In both a new study published Monday and in a newspaper interview over the weekend, German marine biologist Hans Poertner warns the world that the crisis of ocean acidification—an intricately woven aspect of global warming and climate change—is now happening at a rate unparalleled in the life of the oceans for at least 250 million years and perhaps the fastest rate ever in the planet’s entire existence.

“The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history,” said Poertner in an interview with environmental journalist Fiona Harvey.

Ocean acidification—often called climate change’s “evil twin” by scientists and experts—happens as the pH level of seawater dwindles as it absorbs increasing amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and though such fluctuations are a normally occurring phenomenon, when the balance tips too far, the acidification can imperil numerous types of marine life and is especially threatening to coral, shell fish, and other essential members of the ocean’s ecosystems.

Poertner—whose study, Inhospitable Oceans, was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change—says that if humanity’s industrial carbon emissions continue with a “business as usual” attitude, the problem of the oceans will be catastrophic.

To make comparisons, the study looked back at the ancient fossil record of the ocean to learn about what we can expect if the process continues unchecked. “The [effects observed] among invertebrates resembles those seen during the Permian Triassic extinctions 250m years ago, when carbon dioxide was also involved,” Poertner said. “The carbon dioxide range at which we see this sensitivity [to acidification] kicking in are the ones expected for the later part of this century and beyond.”

As Harvey explains:

Oceans are one of the biggest areas of focus for current climate change research. The gradual warming of the deep oceans, as warmer water from the surface circulates gradually to lower depths, is thought to be a significant factor in the earth’s climate. New science suggests that the absorption of heat by the oceans is probably one of the reasons that the observed warming in the last 15 years has been at a slightly slower pace than previously, and this is likely to form an important part of next month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The IPCC report, the first since 2007, will provide a comprehensive picture of our knowledge of climate change. It is expected to show that scientists are at least 95% certain that global warming is happening and caused by human activity, but that some uncertainties remain over the exact degree of the planet’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas increases.

And as Time points out in its review of the study:

Corals are likely to have the toughest time. The invertebrate species secretes calcium carbonate to make the rocky coastal reefs that form the basis of the most productive—and beautiful—ecosystems in the oceans. More acidic oceans will interfere with the ability of corals to form those reefs. Some coral have already shown the ability to adapt to lower pH levels, but combined with direct ocean warming—which can lead to coral bleaching, killing off whole reefs—many scientists believe that corals could become virtually extinct by the end of the century if we don’t reduce carbon emissions.

The Nature Climate Change study found that mollusks like oysters and squids will also struggle to adapt to acidification, though crustaceans like lobsters and crabs—which build lighter exoskeletons—seem likely to fare better. With fish it’s harder to know, though those species that live among coral reefs could be in trouble should the coral disappear. But ultimately, as the authors point out, “all considered groups are impacted negatively, albeit differently, even by moderate ocean acidification.” No one gets out untouched.