just heard that coral reefs are under substantial pressure from the big three the big three over-exploitation pollution and climate change and this is resulted in a loss of a lot of the megafauna a loss of the 3d structure on reefs and these trophic cascades these effects at different levels influence influencing one another in in trophic webs these bold new estimates of president projected coral reef decline need to be met with bold new management and policy initiatives you my talk today I want to give you a sense of the loss we’re currently seeing in coral reef resources I hope you’re not looking down into a black shoes while I do this and then provide you with some fresh ideas about how we might begin to claw back some of those losses I shall do this by giving you executive summaries of three research vignettes each with their own implications for proactive coral reef management and policy the first one has to do with the shifting baselines shifting baselines describes the tendency of people to perceive ocean life as abundant and ocean ecosystems as healthy even though they have slowly and steadily deteriorated you know it said that those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them it’s a truism that’s usually uttered in war but the concept is equally applicable to the battle being fought by well-meaning citizens across the world over the intelligent stewardship of natural resources that accommodates both economic viability and environmental sustainability in Australia where coral reefs contribute over six billion dollars a year to the national economy this is perhaps most acutely felt in the stewardship of coral reefs so we must be careful as stewards of the coral reefs and other marine ecosystems to not judge our ecosystems on a sliding scale of decline with each new short period short term period judged by to be the new icon for pristine coral reef habitats so I’m going to show you a couple examples of of shifting baselines the first one doesn’t come from from coral reefs but rather from northwestern sorry cod for the North Atlantic managers have a look at this graph in the lower right and you’ll see that managers face with declines characteristics of the mid-1970s would have rejoiced by the time the early 80s came around when stocks recovered only to lose heart again when collapse occurred in the mid 1980s well a longer-term view shows that stocks were already severely depleted compared to their historic abundances in 1850 when stocks were also surely reduced from their natural highs from centuries gone by another example is is our one of our favorite warm and fuzzy coral reef animals the Dougal dugongs are large gray mammals which spend most of their talk entire lives sorry we spend their entire lives in the sea they may be up to three metres long weighed 400 kilograms they’re highly migratory they occur in various places or the east and west coast of Australia but they’ve been highly prized by humans for their food and medicine all attributes now dugongs used to have fantastic abundances consider this quote from 1876 the immense herds which frequent these shallows appear almost fabulous one of the fishermen and wide bay told the writer that a few days before he had seen a mob which appeared to fill the water with their bodies he computed this school or mob to be half a mile wide and from three to four miles long here’s a lithograph of a dugong bone mount on 22 island from the dumont d’urville expedition of 1842 the tourists straight island region dugong and turtle skulls and bones are massed in heaps or placed in rows for ceremonial purposes or merely kept to keep count of the number of animals that were caught in a single season look at the shape of this of this bound of dugongs it’s actually in the shape of a dugong and that’s how many dugongs were actually killed during a single season now if we think about dugongs in other places like Harvey Bay in southeast Queensland we have similar similar sort of historic sightings so there’s another quote from 1876 that between three rhian four hours there was a continuous stream of dugongs passing now if you do some back-of-the-envelope measurements about you know how fast it dugong swim what’s the what’s the length of the average dugong you know how many abreast might have been swimming on that day you get an estimate of about 70,000 dugong in harvey bay on that day when that observation was made now the modern abundances I’ve shown you over here between 1995 and 2005 are made assuming that abundances were characterized as

high well what is high according to dugong biologists today hi is less than 3.5 dugongs per square kilometer that day 150 years ago they were about 200 they numbered about 200 per square kilometer so we’ve really lost our way here with a shifting baseline when we consider that dugong densities are high when we see three and a half of them in a square kilometer well that has to do with the loss of megafauna but what about the the corals on the Great Barrier Reef here’s another example the percent cover of live corals has been greatly reduced over the last couple of decades prior to nineteen eighty about sixty percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s reefs had coral cover of fifty percent or higher and as shown in that top a blue panel but after 2000 this number dwindle dwindle to around ten percent with more than fifty percent of the wreath showing less than or equal to ten percent of coral cover well the fact is we really have no idea of what the past variation and community structure has been on the Great Barrier Reef and only some very recent evidence from my lab is shedding some light on this so let’s have a look at that on the left is a core taken by divers of about varying lengths this one’s about a meter and shows we’re able to cordon into the sediment to try to get a look at the coral community structure through time now this work is being conducted on near shore race of the great barrier reef where water quality has been implicated in the decline and shifts in community structure of a lot of these near shore coral reefs and some of the early data that we’re getting is supporting species with very recent species replacements to ecological states that have not been previously characteristic of these gbr near shore sides or of these communities at least in the past 500 years so if one looks at the abundance of a cropper and parcel opera which is a these two the abundance stops and all of a sudden it’s overtaken by high abundances of pavana a species that hadn’t occurred at this particular site for the last 500 years so these data are quite preliminary but i think they show that we can begin to get an understanding of the past historical state or nature of the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world so based on this kind of ability to go back in the past I’d like to make the first recommendation and that is that we can actually use ecological baselines to to guide us in environmental law and and my idea here is taken from the Superfund law that was that was that was signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1980 in the United States and what that law was all about was actually trying to clean up toxic waste sites that were occurring in places like the Love Canal in New York if anybody that rings a bell to anybody and what was having these children were being born with three heads and 12 12 legs and and and they started trying to figure out what was going on genetically and what’s going on environmentally and they found that the PCB levels were astronomically high in the backyards of these of these neighborhoods so what this Superfund law did was it took money from various companies and corporations and industries and said we’re not going to place any blame on you we’re going to provide this service where you provide a certain amount of the income that you’re raising we won’t blame you for anything but when we find sites that need restoration then we will use that money to restore those sites so given the fact that we can find some e coli what is natural what was natural and then we can look at deviations from that might provide some real basis for getting at new laws for species in habitat restoration now I’ll go to the second vignette which is over harvesting down the food chain and what that has to do with marine leasehold property well fishing down the food webs refers to our pension for over exploiting one marine resource and then moving on to the next until all that’s left is smaller and smaller and less tastier and less tastier fish or other fish and shellfish now as we fish down these marine food webs we selectively and sequentially remove first the bigger higher trophic level fish and then move down the food chain now last month I spent a month in exmouth and and I ate a lot of or I ate some local fish called Ruby snapper and I was trying to figure out what Ruby snapper was so I was talking to one of the fisherman’s and as it turns out Ruby snapper isn’t a conventional snapper is

actually a job fish and it’s a fish were being taken from 270 meters water depth and when the fish used to be known as job fish nobody in exmouth would eat them but when they become lettin became known as Ruby snapper everybody started eating them so this refers to our sort of perception of what we’re eating this this happened countless times in the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world where once one food resource that was characteristic of a certain country or certain region is totally exploited then it’s replaced by another and now in Barbados all you can buy is bait is is very small fish less than I say six inches I guess ten centimeters that’s a mixed bag it’s called a mixed bag and it’s several species and it’s simply a far cry from what sustained these populations for for millennia now this sort of pattern is not just something that’s new today this sort of thing has been happening for millennia and we can derive information about from mittens on on what people used to eat thirty-three thousand years ago this is from New Ireland in Papua New Guinea and it shows that as we go from 30 thousand years to 2114 all the way to the modern we get a sequentially sequential replacement of from large turbos to medium-sized their IDs to smaller Titans and limpets so this idea of fishing down the food chain is nothing particularly new now we couple that with the what I call the will to fish now fishing is a huge concern for marine habitats worldwide and and we’re battling against pioneer mentalities that have characterized fisheries such as these in Western Australia this is a recently published book called hooked for life by one of the the old sort of icons of fishing in western australia ross kuszak and in the front to see frontispiece of that book he characterizes the mentality and the spirit of fishing with with this quote i envy not him that each better meet that i do nor him that is richer or where is better clothes than I do I envy nobody but him and him only that catches more fish than I do so what we’re facing here is a decline everywhere in fishing this is taken from this Myers in worm a very famous article in 2003 where they documented a decline in fish biomass all around the world they showed a ninety percent decline in large predatory fish worldwide and and what we’re having here is we have the tragedy of the Commons now in the interest of time I’m not going to go into great detail about this slide but what we’re doing here is we’re managing for individual optimum current policy is favoring individual Ottomans and not societal optimist and what we need to do to avoid this tragedy is we need to manage for a shared optimum and I don’t think we would get any arguments from anyway on that point now this leads me to my second recommendation and that is we need we need restoration we need to get the large megafauna back we need to we need to start enlisting business we need partnerships between businesses and environmental stakeholders you know in the developing world there’s a lot of a lot of a growing sense of getting back to customary marine tenure getting back to the to the village level and getting back ownership of the marine resource and there’s a sense that this is really a promising Avenue of getting back the marine resources that have been exploited because people have ownership over those resources they’re going to Shepherd them they’re going to be good stewards well why not why not in the in the Western developed nations as well why not what’s wrong with the idea of marine leasehold property I throw this out not because I I’m saying I absolutely think we should take all the great barrier reef and salad but I want to open up to debate the idea of actually being able to somehow restore these large megafauna populations in some way that might benefit both business and environmental stakeholders what about all those thousands and thousands of turtles that get eaten and never make it to to reproductive maturity once they leave the beach could we use those in some way so we have half of them and eat turtle soup at some point in time which I hear is very good I’ve never had it but in but then have the other half released to the wild in much greater numbers than what they would have done just waddling off the beach is just one example its food for thought okay let me just go to my my last vignette now that is global trends in in reef decline and in the policy that I’d like to get across here is actually reversing the trajectory of decline and using that as a measure for success in management this is a slide that shows some work I’ve done in

Barbados looking at fossil coral reefs this is a fancy of analysis called an ordination all it means is that coral communities of these four different ages 104 to 220,000 years old and how close they are in composition to one another one pattern you might have gotten from this would be that each color would occupy a different space in this ordination but in fact they all they all sort of cluster on top of one another essentially for 115 thousand years coral communities looked pretty much the same now if you go to the recent data on Barbados coral communities and you throw that data into this ordination all these points collapse to a single point and you can see that there’s a very very large difference between the community composition that characterized those reefs for so long at versus what’s happening today now is Barbados the only place where this is happening no and this is a graph that shows the the what used to be the dominant shallow water car on the Caribbean we’ve heard about it the Elkhorn coral and then the staghorn coral a little bit deeper and what we see is that in the Pleistocene and the Holocene that is greater than 10,000 years ago the percentage of Caribbean sites with Elkhorn coral the dominant coral and with cervical with staghorn coral as a dominant coil were very very high but something happened between the Holocene and the modern and then what we’ve seen in the modern this collapse between pre-1980 and post-1980 of course is the Diadema outbreak that sea urchin disease that that Bob and Terry have mentioned previously well it gets us to the question well what did coral reefs used to look like what was natural I’ve been involved in a series of papers looking at the historical ecology of coral reefs the field of historic ecology is a very rapidly emerging field that can really illustrate to us just how dramatic the losses of bearden if we combine data from paleontology from archaeology from historical records of naturalist who used to accompany sea captain’s from from the British Colonials ships and other European colonial ships and all the way to modern modern surveys using scuba so we’ve completed studies now on a lot of different areas around the world are just going to show you the initial study for time 14 coral side 7 guilds large and small predators large sorry large and small carnivores large and small herbivores incidentally the difference between large and small is greater than 1 meter versus less than 1 meter and then suspension feeders corals and sea grass and we ranked the ecosystem state of those various fields during different cultural what we called cultural periods and there’s seven of them now when you go through and you collate all this data is about two years work but by 15 different people who are assigned books I’m sorry different places you find that lo and behold we can’t characterize any of our sites as Christine right we just can’t use that word we do find that place is like the outer Great Barrier Reef and the integrate Barrier Reef showed the so much less degradation than places like Jamaica which Bob described as the type specimen for a degraded reef now if we take this I want to take this graph here again which is and this is a normalized PCA sorry principal component axis and I want to take this graph and stand it standard on its head and it becomes this graph here so this is the modern to period the most recent period and this is pristine down here this is ecologically extinct this is good this is bad and things used to be good in the pre human this is hunter gatherer agricultural stage colonial occupation colonial Development so this is basically things are going from from good to bad to worse through time and this is a global pattern okay so we do have we do have a sense of a global a global sort of trajectory of decline here now so basically our task is to prevent this slippery slope to slime and to somehow restore reece from the right-hand side of this figure to the left hand side because the the right hand side is very bleak and we’re not you know again with reference to the first talk today we’re not asking to go back to the exact point for where we were because that will never happen all we want to do is to try to understand fundamental ecological processes to apply knowledge of those processes to appropriate management strategies so what I would say again mimicking some of the other speakers we need to simultaneously reduce all the threats

that happening to coral reefs and we need to use this as a measure of success reverse the trajectory of decline whatever action that you employ measure it by whether it’s not just maintaining the status quo or whether it’s whether it’s sort of documenting incremental decline that’s not good enough the activities that we engage in need to reverse the decline so we’ve heard a lot about npas but really I think that we need more tools than just than just NPA’s and perhaps some of these these legal issues and some of these business partnerships might provide some vehicle for us to get to get beyond mpa’s and start doing a bit more before it’s too late thank you very much