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Reef Reminiscences — Racheting Back the Shifted Baselines

Baselines shift.  People take their early experiences and build a vision of what their world is like.  This vision is the baseline against which new experiences are compared.  This is true for those of us contributing to this booklet.  The habit of building baselines anew each generation would serve us well if we lived in a world which changed only suddenly, but it risks us failing to notice slower, longterm changes.

Coral reefs appear to be changing in a number of fundamental and detrimental ways.  Many reef scientists, comparing coral reefs to canaries in a coal mine, argue that coral reef deterioration is an early warning of major global environmental disruptions in the coming decades.  The tragedy of recent coral reef decline is that too few people actually know what coral reefs are supposed to be like, and too few of those who now study reefs witnessed what coral reefs used to be like decades ago.

Read this booklet and share it with your friends.  ReefReminiscencesBooklet_WEB

3 thoughts on “Reef Reminiscences — Racheting Back the Shifted Baselines”

  1. Hello Peter I am an enthusiastic reader of your comments on the coral list. In the late 70’s I was the first (an under grad at the time) from UCV at IVIC, to cuantitatively describe in my thesis the southern fringing reef commuity structure of La Orchila Island using Y. loya’s inspiration. I also desribed the Diadema antillarum spatial size distribution related to strutural complexity and the spatial zonation of Judith Lang coral agression Hierarchy. Quite early I realized the role of herbovores fertilization(parrot fishes crapping all over the place) as wel as D. antillarum holding Algae at bay, I hardly registred algae cover at the time.
    Never published my results other than an at an Smithosian symposium presentation in Panama in 1976 or 77 when Jane Lubchenco was a researcher or director overthere (I dont recall). Nevertheless I stiil have my results which I hope to publish after I get to go back to La Orchila (At this time impossible due to the political craze we are living in Venezuela). Nevertheless I know that what is left of the section I studied is only a sandy terrace and sand slope. After 22 years in the environmental affairs of PDVSA 1981-2003 i cama back to UCV where I am writing my Phd thesis in Fisheries population dynamics.

    Best regards


    1. Juan,
      Thanks for those reminiscences from the 1970s. Yes, some of us still remember when shallow waters in the Caribbean were not a dense turf of macroalgae 10-20cm or more thick. Best wishes on the PhD, Caribbean countries desperately need well-trained environmental scientists, and fisheries management is a growing problem.

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