How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

Back from the Dead: Coral Recovery Signals Resiliency of Reef Ecosystems
Volume 3, Number 21: 6 September 2000

"Coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans seem to be recovering more quickly than expected from a recent devastating 'bleaching' caused by high ocean temperatures."  So begins a News-of-the-Week item written by Dennis Normile in the 12 May 2000 issue of Science.  It continues with positive reports from the Lakshadweep Islands off the west coast of India, as well as from the Maldives and Palau, recounting the "unexpected survival" of coral that "somehow avoided" the unprecedented environmental assault.

But how can this be?  Wasn't, as Normile puts it, "the most extensive coral bleaching event ever seen" - with its imputed record-high death-dealing tropical sea surface temperatures - supposed to be the beginning-of-the-end for earth's wildly-diverse coral reef ecosystems?  And so we ask, how can so many of the massively devastated corals possibly be recovering?

An enlightening answer comes from Terry Done of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Cape Ferguson, who Normile quotes as saying "it may indicate that reefs are more resilient than we had thought."  Now isn't that a "thought" - nature may be more resilient than what the global warmers have consistently claimed she is.

Done is undoubtedly correct in his assessment of nature, and the nature of coral reefs in particular.  But the good news, coupled with published reactions to it, also indicates something else, namely, that some people just cannot imagine anything good happening ? even after it's already occurred!

Consider, for example, the reef Done studies.  Normile reports that it "looked 'like a graveyard' after the 1998 bleaching."  But in March of this year, it was found to contain "a surprising amount of new coral," something that Normile and the scientists he talked with all call a "mystery."  Yet in spite of this good news, and the possibilities it portends for the future, Normile echoes the sentiments of Done that, be this recovery as it may, "the coral would not be able to mature and recover from the repeated bleaching forecast to accompany projected global warming."

But why not?  If many of earth's corals - like a couple of oceans-full - "mysteriously" recovered from this mother-of-all bleaching events, could they not "mysteriously" recover from others as well?  We have a sneaking suspicion they could, based upon the fact that many of them have just proven last year's reports of their demise to have been, shall we say, greatly exaggerated?

In the judgment of the global warmers, however, earth's corals definitely will not be able to recover from similar future challenges.  In their minds, they truly won't be able to "weather such weather" ? until, of course, they actually do in fact do so, just like they did this year, which wasn't supposed to happen either.

Clearly, today's "mystery" is but tomorrow's old news, merely awaiting the thoughtful study of some discerning mind - or even just the passing of time, as in this case - to lay it open for all mankind to see and understand, making what currently seems impossible actually appear commonplace.

But the global warmers just don't get it.  Rather than realizing they do not understand enough about the natural systems about which they make such dire pronouncements - which fail to materialize, over and over again - they continue to erode their credibility with ever more dramatic doomsday predictions.  Though forced to finally acknowledge that corals "have a good chance to recover from a one-time, short-term disturbance like bleaching" - which now doesn't sound so bad, does it? - they continue to claim that the ultimate demise of earth's coral reefs is inevitable, due to more of what many corals have just successfully weathered.  And so it is that Normile concludes by quoting Dome as saying that the current recovery "won't do the reefs much good," because it won't be much longer "before they'll be wiped out again."

Fortunately, it would appear that we can now append to that statement the additional assertion that they'll also likely recover again.

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Normile, D.  2000.  Global Warming: Some coral bouncing back from El Niņo.  Science 288: 941-942.