Jennifer Marohasy » Activist Scientists Crying Wolf on Coral Bleaching and Climate Change

Derek Tipp – Jennifer Marohasy

THE propaganda from our Great Barrier Reef scientists at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium is relentless. According to Janice Lough, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the rate of change from anthropogenic global warming is unprecedented and is already having a catastrophic impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Also in front of the TV camera today, Phillip Munday, James Cook University, said the most spectacular of our coral reef fish will disappear. And John Pandolfi, University of Queensland, was begging us to do more to save the reef.[1] Australian Institute of Marine Science research director Peter Doherty told the $10 million symposium of more than 2000 marine scientists from 80 countries of an “alarming and unsustainable decline” in coral over large sections of the Great Barrier Reef in nearly three decades.[2]

But I reckon it’s all a put-on: they are crying wolf.

One of the symposium themes is ‘Climate change and bleaching’.

There have been some spectacular bleaching events in the last 15 years. The reality, however, is that most of the Great Barrier Reef has not bleached, and those areas that have bleached have almost fully recovered. The following are some interesting facts about heat and coral growth: [3]

 

1. All the species of coral that occur in the Great Barrier Reef also grow in Papua New Guinea where the waters are 2 degrees warmer.

2. Coral growth rates and tissue thickness generally increases with increasing temperature. The only regularly temperature-stressed corals in Queensland are in Moreton Bay, because the ocean water there regularly gets too cold.

3. The short lived Acropora corals which are most susceptible to bleaching make a choice of the symbiotic algae which resides inside them. It is the expulsion of these algae that causes bleaching. It is now known that the some clades of algae make the coral grow very fast but also renders them susceptible to bleaching. On the other hand, other clades of algae make the coral grow slowly but to be less susceptible to bleaching. By selecting different clades of algae, it is now apparent that the corals can easily adapt to major temperature changes, whether these are natural or not.

4. If global warming occurs and the sea-level rises in consequence, there will be a spectacular increase in coral cover on the large areas of reef flat which are now almost devoid of corals due to the fall in sea-level that has occurred in Queensland over the last 5000 years. These areas are presently below the spring low tide level and are thus exposed to the air. Sea level rise will allow these areas to recolonise.

5. High surface water temperatures associated with the two major bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef in recent decades were a result of periods of extended calm associated with strong El Niño conditions. At such times normal wave mixing ceases as does the normal wave driven currents across shallow reef tops. This permits unusually high water temperatures to develop and the water on top of reefs to become especially warm. There is no evidence to indicate any influence of anthropogenic climate change in these events nor of any increase in the frequency or strength of such events.

Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and various universities depend upon generous government funding to study the supposed threats of climate change and coral bleaching. But rather than reporting their research findings in a scientifically meaningful way they behave as political activists and propagandists and talk nonsense.

Shame.

*****
Links, And

1. Climate change could make reef boring, Conor Duffy, July 10, 2012. http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2012-07-10/climate-change-could-make-barrier-reef-boring/977326

2. Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns hears of threats to our natural ocean wonders, Peter Michael, July 10, 2012. http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2012/07/10/227711_local-news.html

3. Interesting facts about heat and coral growth compiled by Professor Peter Ridd, James Cook University.

Read more..

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2 responses

  1. 1.to3. you’re right.
    4. Depth is really a factor, it’s not only temperature.
    5. to the end..”while the El nino events don’t get stronger, the combination of the conditions provided by El nino with higher ocean temperatures..” means still favourable condition.

  2. uknowispeaksense | Reply

    Marohasy is peddling her ignorance here. She is relying on a physicist for her information and a physicist who is clearly ignorant of ecology and molecular biology.

    Her points
    1. Just because the corals at higher latitudes also occur at lower latitudes where the water is warmer does not mean the corals at higher latitudes are able to cope with warmer water. Just because they are the same species does not mean they have the same thermal tolerances. Species is a very broad measure and there can be very large differences within a species in terms of phenotype and ontogeny.

    2. Again, assuming that what is good for one is good for all is nonsense. In this case the suggestion is that because cool waters at the extreme southern end of the Reef is detrimental to coral growth, then warm water must be good. It is a ridiculously simplistic argument and the same answer to point one applies here.

    3. The suggestion that corals can actively “select” a clade of algae is pure speculative bullshit as far as I know. The relationship between Acrophora corals and their symbionts is an obligate one. recent research by Shnizato et al (2011) in Nature identify that Acrophora coral do not rely on their symbionts for protection from UV as they have the gentic coding ability to produce protective enzymes, yet they still bleach anyway. Buit lets just pretend for a moment that Acrophora corals can actively choose their symbionts and this can result in a dramatic change inontogeny, what about all the other corals that aren’t Acrophora? Plus, what sort of speciese depauperate and structurally different reef will be left behind? Is she prepared to lose a substantial numberof coral species and what then about the cascade effects? What aboout all the specialist molluscs, crustaceans, annelids, cnidarians etc etc etc? it’s not so simple. The problem with non-experts like Maharosy and her Physicist mate is they don’t know about keystone species, trophic cascades and how when resilience limits are crossed it is possible for entire ecosytems to collapse.

    4. If global warming occurs and the sea-level rises in consequence? Well that says it all right there doesn’t it? Doesn’t she mean, “as global warming is occurring and sea levels are rising”? Anyway, somehow, all the corals are going to quickly migrate onto and colonise newly submerged areas. Okay. I’m pretty sure the people in low lying areas on the Queensald Coast aren’t too keen to go snorkelling in their yards. But what about the deeper water corals? You know, the ones that rely not only on depth, but on temperature and also on slope and aspect? What happens to them? As the sealevel rises and the water gets warmer, the combinations of those factors changes and the particular microclimatic niches these species occupy will disappear.

    5. “There is no evidence to indicate any influence of anthropogenic climate change in these events nor of any increase in the frequency or strength of such events.”

    Except that each El Nino event has occurred against the backdrop of steadily increasing average global ocean temperatures so while the El nino events don’t get stronger, the combination of the conditions provided by El nino with higher ocean temperatures means the occurence and duration of conditions favourable for bleaching events increases each time.

    Finally, this last statement, “Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and various universities depend upon generous government funding to study the supposed threats of climate change and coral bleaching. But rather than reporting their research findings in a scientifically meaningful way they behave as political activists and propagandists and talk nonsense.” is pure propaganda and the only person speaking nonsense is Marohasy. Her ignorance not only of reef ecology but also of the publication record of the the many scientists studying the problem is astounding and wilful. Anyone who takes this clown seriously needs their head read.

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