Consensus Report

A Research Review of Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs (2018)

Topics: Life Sciences

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Around the world, coral reefs have seen major declines due to problems including climate change and widespread disease, in addition to local stress from pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction. Reduction and mitigation of carbon emissions will be required for successful global management of marine ecosystems. Even with such reductions, committed warming from the current accumulation of greenhouse gases is expected to expose the majority of the world’s reefs to bleaching conditions annually by 2050. In the face of these predictions, a growing body of research on coral physiology, ecology, molecular biology, and responses to stress has revealed potential tools to increase coral resilience.

This report is the first report of a two-phase study evaluating the benefits and risks of implementing novel approaches to increase coral reef survival in deteriorating environmental conditions. The report identifies and describes the state of research on a diversity of approaches that target the genetics, physiology, ecology, and local environment of coral reefs. This report is a benchmark that reflects current research, identifying efforts that range from those potentially feasible now to those that offer promise on a decadal time scale.

A second report, available in 2019, will include a risk assessment framework and decision pathway to guide progress of these interventions from the research phase to implementation when appropriate.

Explore the interventions described in the report in this interactive infographic.
Download an interview with committee chair Steve Palumbi

This study was requested and sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with additional support from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.