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6 Sep: A lifeline of resilience for coral reefs

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06 September 2014

6th September 2014

An Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)-led international study published today in the journal Global Change Biology shows how a holistic approach to reef management could boost coral reef resilience under environmental change. The researchers present an Adaptive Resilience-Based Management (ARBM) framework that can help guide decision-making to improve the health of coral reefs.

Coral reefs are under pressure from a variety of sources, including climate change, ocean acidification, storms, declining water quality, crown-of-thorns (COTS) starfish outbreaks and overfishing.

“The approach we present in the paper gives reef managers a lens to help them prioritise actions and investments that provide the best long-term outlook for coral reefs and also the people who depend on them for goods and services," said Dr Ken Anthony, AIMS Research Program Leader.

The researchers applied the framework to Caribbean and Indo-Pacific reefs, where the researchers showed that climate change and ocean acidification will be making the job of coral reef managers increasingly difficult.

“Keeping coral reefs healthy and resilient will require an increasingly cautious approach as impacts from both global and local stressors accumulate on these ecosystems,” said Dr Paul Marshall, University of Queensland.

“Our work shows how strategic efforts to reduce stresses like poor water quality and also simultaneously combat COTS outbreaks can increase the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) up to a point, but that climate change and ocean acidification will ultimately need to be addressed to safeguard the GBR and coral reefs globally,” said Dr Anthony.

"Resilience is a key concept for reef management, but translating theory to practice has been a challenge. Our approach can help support management decisions that build reef resilience and sustain the social and economic benefits that reefs provide to millions of people around the world,” Dr Marshall concluded.

This study was supported by the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) under the Australian Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN, Switzerland) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, US).

For more information, please contact Dr Ken, ph: +61 417 856 682 or, Georgina Kenyon, AIMS Communications,, +61 7 4753 4265.


To read the paper (GCB 12700), click on the following link: