Resilient Reefs addressing the effects of climate change

Climate change is today the biggest threat to coral reefs. Under a business-as-usual scenario, nearly 90 per cent of the 29 World Heritage-listed coral reefs are expected to severely bleach twice-per-decade by 2040.

Photo credit: Joel Johnsson

The world’s coral reefs support 25 per cent of all marine life and the livelihoods and food security of nearly one billion people – and they are at risk, with an estimated 75 per cent of all coral reefs under threat from the combination of climate change and local stresses including pollution and over exploitation. New reef management models are urgently required.

Commencing in 2018, the Resilient Reefs Initiative, a partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the BHP Foundation, has successfully piloted a new reef management model in four World Heritage listed coral reefs in Australia, Belize, New Caledonia and Palau.

At each reef, the Resilient Reefs Initiative brings together local communities, reef managers and resilience experts to agree and execute reef resilience strategies addressing the effects of climate change and local threats. Whilst the interdependency of reefs and reef communities has long been recognized, this is the first global program to deliver integrated reef and community resilience planning at scale.

The Resilient Reefs Initiative is piloting active interventions that reduce local pressures and empower local communities to adapt livelihoods to changing realities. For example, in Palau, the Initiative is working with local rangers and communities to ensure the latest science in fisheries management, adaptation and resilience are practiced in concert with traditional knowledge—creating conditions in which fish stocks can rebound.

This year, the Resilient Reefs Initiative was recognized by UNESCO as a model for successful resilience-based reef management, which means it will be promoted as a model across all 27 World Heritage listed coral reefs under UNESCO accreditation. This outcome is consistent with the Foundation’s ambition to achieve ‘proof of concept’ for new models which, where successful, can be replicated and taken to scale by others.