A Reef Manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching

Paul Marshall, Heidi Schuttenberg
Posted on: 9/21/2016 - Updated on: 1/20/2023

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The biological diversity and productivity of coral reefs underpins the welfare of many societies throughout the world's tropical regions. Coral reefs form the foundation of dive tourism industries, support fisheries and are important to cultural traditions.They play an essential role in buffering coastal communities from storm waves and erosion, and they contain a largely untapped wealth of biochemical resources.Tens of millions of people depend upon reefs for all or part of their livelihood, and over a billion people rely on reef-related fisheries worldwide.

With coral reefs providing such essential services to humans, the prospect of their continued widespread degradation is of concern. Pollution, habitat destruction, disease and unsustainable fishing have now led to declines in reef condition throughout the world.Against this backdrop of conventional stresses, the threat of mass coral bleaching has recently emerged, leading to what has been widely acknowledged as a 'coral reef crisis'.

This guide builds on these recent initiatives by bringing together the latest scientific knowledge and management experience to assist managers in responding effectively to mass coral bleaching events. It synthesises science and management information, explores emerging strategies, and informs the ways managers deal with the complex human dimensions of these issues. Importantly, this guide is designed to provide pragmatic, science-based suggestions for adaptive management in this time of change.

We commend it to reef managers worldwide, and hope that the experience of implementing the ideas within will further advance scientific knowledge and the practice of coral reef management.


Marshall P.A. and Schuttenberg, H.Z. (2006). A Reef Manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia (ISBN 1-876945-40-0).

Affiliated Organizations

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is responsible for managing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park so it's protected for the future.

Our work is guided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, Corporate Plan, Australian Government policies, Portfolio Budget Statement, Outlook Report and government priorities.

We use the best available scientific information to guide us, and engage with experts and the community. This includes four Reef Advisory Committees and 11 Local Marine Advisory Committees.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.