Executive Secretary:
Terry J. Donaldson, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Ichthyology
University of Guam Marine Laboratory
UOG Station
Mangilao, Guam 96923 USA
tel: +1 671-735-2187
fax: +1 671-734-6767
email: donaldsn@uguam.uog.edu
travel email: terryjdonaldson@gmail.com
website: www.uog.edu/marinelab/terrydonaldson.html

Update: May 2012

This report summarizes briefly activities undertaken by Pacific Science Association’s (PSA) Coral Reef Working Group (CRWG) between 2009 and May, 2012.

The Coral Reef Working Group was re-formed in late 2008 with the intention of holding a meeting at the 11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress held in Tahiti, French Polynesia (March, 2009). On 22 August, 2008, the Executive Secretary of the PSA, Dr. Burke Burnett, had invited
the author of this report take a lead in reforming and revitalizing this working group. The first task was to contact the membership of the previous CRWG to determine if members were interested in participating in a new CRWG. This was done prior to the Tahiti Inter- Congress and it was determined that some members of the previous group were interested in continuing on.

The second task was to schedule a meeting of the new group to be held at the Tahiti Inter-Congress. Announcements were made both to previous members and to the general membership of the PSA. Interested persons were invited to attend the Tahiti Inter-Congress; if attendance was not possible then perspective members were invited to contact this author indicating their interest in participating in the CRWG.

The third task was to begin to prepare a Mission Statement for the CRWG. Preliminary components of a draft mission statement were to be presented to the new membership for discussion at the Tahiti Inter-Congress. An organizational meeting of persons interested in joining the CRWG was held at the Tahiti Inter-Congress. Those present elected Dr. Posa Skelton (University of the South Pacific-Fiji) as Chair and Dr. Terry Donaldson (University of Guam Marine Laboratory) as Executive Secretary.
During the meeting the mission statement under development was discussed with emphasis given towards the Executive Secretary’s proposal to have the CRWG organize a symposium on the effects of climate change, ocean acidification and other stressors upon coral reefs to be held at the 22nd Pacific Science Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Over the next few months the Executive Secretary prepared a draft mission statement that included language relevant to the proposed 22nd PSC symposium. This and subsequent drafts were circulated to the membership by the Chair. Members, particularly those from the University of the South Pacific, provided comments, criticisms and suggestions. The final draft of the mission statement was accepted.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary pressed ahead with the organization of the symposium for the 22nd PSC. A title, “The Future of Reefs: Climate Change, Acidification, Over-Fishing and other Stresses” was agreed upon. A proposal bearing this title was submitted to the Organizing Committee in Kuala Lumpur and was accepted. The Executive Secretary circulated announcements promoting the symposium to the membership, the PSA (via its website), and to various list serves, most notably “Coral List” and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, an organization with members interested in coral reefs and climate change. The Executive Secretary promoted the symposium at various scientific meetings, including one of the Fisheries Society of
the British Isles symposium on climate change and fishes, held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as well. This meeting led to the submission of three presentations to the 22nd PSC symposium as well as interest from Wiley-Blackwell (scientific publishers) in a possible book based upon the symposium’s presentations. The Executive Secretary was also able to secure a travel scholarship from the Coral Reef Institute of the Western Pacific (NOAA and the University of Guam) for a doctoral student from Palau, Alma Ridep-Morris, currently at James Cook University (Australia), to attend the 22nd PSC and present a paper on her research on coral diseases in Palau. Various organizational tasks were attended to, as well.

The Executive Secretary will lead the symposium and make two presentations. A good number of submissions to the symposium were promised or made but because of the global economy, a lack of financial support from the organizers for a guest speaker, meeting and transportation costs, and recent schedule conflicts, the number has been reduced (at this date) to just eight presentations. The 22nd PSC will convene in Kuala Lumpur in less than three weeks time.

In closing, three administrative actions must be noted. First, because of employment commitments that included a move from Fiji to Samoa, Dr. Skelton stepped down as Chair of the CRWG as the Mission Statement was being completed, and Dr. Donaldson assumed the role as Acting Chair in addition to his duties as Executive Secretary. Second, a proposal to continue the CRWG was prepared by Donaldson and submitted to the PSA for its consideration. Third, a meeting of the CRWG will be scheduled for the 22nd PSC. If the CRWG continues to function within the PSA, an election will be held either then or afterwards (via email) to select the Chair and Executive Secretary of this working group.

Terry J. Donaldson, Ph.D
Acting Chair and Executive Secretary
PSA Coral Reef Working Group

The Coral Reef Working Group (CRWG) seeks to facilitate international research and collaboration to address the impacts of climate change, specifically ocean warming and ocean acidification, upon coral reef systems of the Asia-Pacific region.  This facilitation will be used to develop regional scientific capacity towards understanding the effects of these impacts, to propose actions that may be used counter or mitigate negative effects, and to communicate outcomes of research upon these impacts to scientists, managers, policy makers and the public.

The CRWG recognizes that coral reef systems within the Pacific region are under severe threat from ocean warming and ocean acidification.  Increased sea temperatures promote coral bleaching and subsequent loss of critical habitats, microhabitats, food, and reproduction sites for many species.  Increased sea temperatures will also promote range extensions of tropical and subtropical reef species, and of invasive species as well.  Ocean acidification will lead to significant negative impacts upon biological organisms.  Many species are susceptible to decreased pH levels that may have negative physical and biological effects upon corals and associated organisms.  These effects will be upon reproduction, larval development, recruitment success, trophic structure, and behavioral processes, but will also have negative effects upon habitats and microhabitats.   The cumulative effects of both ocean warming and acidification upon coral reef s pose significant extinction risks for many taxa that are dependent upon functional coral reef systems.  These risks increase when other factors, such as over-fishing, anthropogenic-driven habitat destruction, water pollution, and other stressors, are included.

While considerable attention has been given to understanding the effects of ocean warming and acidification upon coral reef systems, there is a need to increase research effort, develop effective management strategies, and provide for the rapid dissemination of information necessary to address the cumulative impacts upon the biodiversity and physical integrity of coral reef systems, and the human communities that depend upon these systems, within the Pacific region.  The Pacific region lacks comprehensive information on the extinction susceptibilities of many coral reef organisms, and their habitats, ecological requirements, and responses to environmental stresses, and this information is extremely important to guide and inform conservation efforts.

The CRWG should develop the capacity to address the actual and potential effects from ocean warming and ocean acidification upon coral reef systems within the region, to facilitate innovative research efforts into the processes driving these effects, and to communicate information obtained from these efforts that can lead to the development and implementation of effective management strategies that attempt to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainability.

1. Promote intensive efforts to increase international and inter-regional institutional collaboration, particularly between those with scientific expertise in coral reef science and regional Pacific institutions, agencies, and non-governmental organizations;
2. Provide enhanced cooperation between scientists, managers, and local stakeholders to increase data collection on negative impacts upon coral reefs, the loss of biodiversity at local and regional scales, and the alteration or loss of resources essential to local communities.  This cooperation should facilitate the development of effective management strategies that reduce the loss of coral reef  biodiversity and promote the sustainability of resources;
3. Promote greater collaboration between scientists and resource managers to develop simple but effective data collection and processing tools that will facilitate useful monitoring of negative impacts upon coral reefs and their biodiversity, and the development of appropriate research programs and management and policy plans;
4. Provide enhanced information sharing and collaboration between projects and programs in the Pacific region to ensure more efficient management of coral reefs under stress from the effects of ocean warming and acidification in concert with other stressors.

1. To collaborate closely with the Task Force on Ocean Acidification in the Pacific (TFOAP), and the Biodiversity Task Force in an effort to coordinate data collection and analysis, develop predictive models of negative impacts resulting from the interaction of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and other stressors, develop predictive models of extinction susceptibility and risk, develop effective strategies towards mitigating negative impacts of ocean warming and acidification, and communicate results and recommendations to communities, managers and policy makers.

2.  To organize and conduct a special session on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Effects Upon Coral Reefs to be held at the 22nd Pacific Science Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (13-17 June, 2011).  This session will integrate recent research on the effects of ocean warming and acidification upon physical and biological processes in coral reef systems, predictive models of  extinction susceptibilities and risks, and the loss of biodiversity among coral reef organisms, with innovative management policies and actions that can be communicated to stakeholders within the Pacific region.