scientist hold coral colony above tank with red torch lighting up the scene

Supporting reef recovery and resilience

Research to help reefs survive climate change

AIMS are developing knowledge and tools to support coral reef resilience in the face of climate change. This endeavour builds on years of our research investigating how coral respond to changing environments.

Climate change and coral reefs

Climate change is the greatest threat to the world’s coral reefs. Marine heatwaves which cause coral bleaching are more frequent, extensive, intense and last longer. This means coral reefs have less time to recover between disturbances. Additional pressures, such as changes to the quality and acidity of seawater also impair reef recovery.

Environmental change is predicted to continue. Reefs are resilient, but coral reef animals and plants must become more able to cope with stressful conditions to survive into the future. It is not yet clear if their rate of adaptation is fast enough to keep up with changing conditions.

To limit human-induced global warming, the world needs to lower emissions. However, sea temperatures are projected to increase to 1.5 to 2 degrees by the end of the century under all emission scenarios – and reducing emissions on its own is no longer enough to guarantee the future of reefs. Marine science is therefore working now to develop the tools to help reefs for the future adapt to, and recover from the effects of climate change.

The challenge is enormous.

As leaders in reef recovery, adaptation and restoration research, we and our collaborators investigate the capacity for reefs to adapt naturally to change, and many ways we can help the Reef.

An important aspect to our research is how these efforts can be used at large scales.

Science to help coral reefs survive climate change

AIMS is focused on helping coral reefs survive climate change.

Our scientists are:

  • continuing our research to understand the natural capacity of corals and reefs to adapt to warming oceans, 
  • investigating ways we can enhance corals’ ability to resist bleaching, and  
  • developing methods to scale up and fast track coral recovery.


We are involved in major projects supporting this research. Learn more about Australian Government-funded Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program, and the Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative, our partnership with BHP.