HCNSO Student Articles


Kenneth R. N. Anthony, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Paul A. Marshall, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Ameer Abdulla, University of Queensland, Brisbane
Roger Beeden, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Christopher Bergh, The Nature Conservancy
Ryan Black, Great Barrier Reef Taskforce
C. Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
Edward T. Game, The Nature Conservancy
Margaret Gooch, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Nicholas A. J. Graham, James Cook University, Townsville
Alison Green, The Nature Conservancy
Scott F. Heron, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Townsville, James Cook University
Ruben Van Hooidonk, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Miami
Cheryl Knowland, University of Queensland, St Lucia
Sangeeta Mangubhai, Wildlife Conservation Society
Nadine Marshall, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Jeffrey A. Maynard, USR 3278 CNRS-EPHE, CRIOBE
Peter McGinnity, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Elizabeth McLeod, The Nature Conservancy, Austin, TX
Peter J. Mumby, University of Queensland, St Lucia
Magnus Nystrom, Stockholm University
David Obura, CORDIO East Africa
Jamie Oliver, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Hugh P. Possingham, University of Queensland, St Lucia
Robert L. Pressey, James Cook University, Townsville
Gwilym Rowlands, Nova Southeastern University
Jerker Tamelander, UNEP Division of Environmental Policy Implementation
David Wachenfeld, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Stephanie Wear, The Nature Conservancy

Document Type


Publication Date



Climate Change, Coral Reefs, Ecosystem Vulnerability, Environmental Management, Ocean Acidification, Social-Ecological System, Structured Decision-Making

Publication Title

Global Change Biology






Cumulative pressures from global climate and ocean change combined with multiple regional and local-scale stressors pose fundamental challenges to coral reef managers worldwide. Understanding how cumulative stressors affect coral reef vulnerability is critical for successful reef conservation now and in the future. In this review, we present the case that strategically managing for increased ecological resilience (capacity for stress resistance and recovery) can reduce coral reef vulnerability (risk of net decline) up to a point. Specifically, we propose an operational framework for identifying effective management levers to enhance resilience and support management decisions that reduce reef vulnerability. Building on a system understanding of biological and ecological processes that drive resilience of coral reefs in different environmental and socio-economic settings, we present an Adaptive Resilience-Based management (ARBM) framework and suggest a set of guidelines for how and where resilience can be enhanced via management interventions. We argue that press-type stressors (pollution, sedimentation, overfishing, ocean warming and acidification) are key threats to coral reef resilience by affecting processes underpinning resistance and recovery, while pulse-type (acute) stressors (e.g. storms, bleaching events, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks) increase the demand for resilience. We apply the framework to a set of example problems for Caribbean and Indo-Pacific reefs. A combined strategy of active risk reduction and resilience support is needed, informed by key management objectives, knowledge of reef ecosystem processes and consideration of environmental and social drivers. As climate change and ocean acidification erode the resilience and increase the vulnerability of coral reefs globally, successful adaptive management of coral reefs will become increasingly difficult. Given limited resources, on-the-ground solutions are likely to focus increasingly on actions that support resilience at finer spatial scales, and that are tightly linked to ecosystem goods and services.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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