New discoveries, old myths?
The folks who wrote this paper recently took part in an expedition to the Line Islands, which harbour some of the remotest and most pristine coral reefs on earth. On Kingman reef, for example, sharks remain fantastically abundant at the top of a healthy food chain.
ISRS is a highly scientific meeting, but for many of those attending, I think, this is by no means incompatible with the capacity for sheer wonder. Two of the most distinguished speakers, John Pandolfi and Peter Mumby, clearly felt this. So while Pandolfi focussed on quite technical questions regarding the validity, or otherwise, of neutral and niche theories in ecology, he also spoke of the significance of "shifting baselines" -- the intergenerational amnesia that hides what is lost. Imagine, he said, the 17th Century Caribbean, its waters so full of turtles by one (apparently) reliable account that sailors could on occasion navigate at night by the noise of their thousands of shells clacking against each other. And although Mumby demonstrated a mathematical model for reef resilience his take home point was simply that we need to "spend more time in the water".
It hard from such a big meeting to single out particular stories for further comment. But among several that look to be important is the work on coral restoration by Buki Rinkevitch and others. Also of interest, and something on which further scrutiny may be welcome, is the observation by Andrew Baird that healthy ecosystems such a coastal forests and coral reefs did *not* reduce the damage to coastal communities of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (See Myth of the green belts, Samdura, No 44). Baird spoke fascinatingly too, but all too briefly, of traditional managements and conservation systems with a track record of more than 350 years in one area.
All this, and more, for further investigation in Coral Bones.