Ecosystem‐based Management of Coral Reefs Under Climate Change

Bethany J. Harvey, Kirsty L. Nash, Julia L. Blanchard, & David P. Edwards
Created: 1/05/2021 -

Abstract

Coral reefs provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people as well as harbor some of the highest regions of biodiversity in the ocean. However, overexploitation, land‐use change and other local anthropogenic threats to coral reefs have left many degraded. Additionally, coral reefs are faced with the dual emerging threats of ocean warming and acidification due to rising CO2 emissions, with dire predictions that they will not survive the century. This review evaluates the impacts of climate change on coral reef organisms, communities and ecosystems, focusing on the interactions between climate change factors and local anthropogenic stressors. It then explores the shortcomings of existing management and the move towards ecosystem‐based management and resilience thinking, before highlighting the need for climate change‐ready marine protected areas (MPAs), reduction in local anthropogenic stressors, novel approaches such as human‐assisted evolution and the importance of sustainable social-ecological systems. It concludes that designation of climate change‐ready MPAs, integrated with other management strategies involving stakeholders and participation at multiple scales such as marine spatial planning, will be required to maximize coral reef resilience under climate change. However, efforts to reduce carbon emissions are critical if the long‐term efficacy of local management actions is to be maintained and coral reefs are to survive.

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