Coral-Focused Climate Change Adaptation and Restoration Based on Accelerating Natural Processes: Launching the “Reefs of Hope” Paradigm

Austin Bowden-Kerby

Publication Date:

The demise of coral reefs due to climate change is now a certainty, and investing in restoration without facing this reality risks failure. A new coral-focused paradigm is proposed, based on helping coral reefs adapt to rising temperature, ensuring that as many coral species as possible survive locally over time. Genebank nurseries of bleaching resistant corals are secured in cooler waters, to prevent their demise as heat stress increases. From nurseries corals are harvested to create nucleation patches of genetically diverse pre-adapted corals, which become reproductively, ecologically and biologically viable at reef scale, spreading over time. This “Reefs of Hope” paradigm, modelled on tropical forest restoration, creates dense coral patches, forming fish habitat immediately. The fish increase coral and substratum health, which in turn enhances natural larval-based recovery processes. Incoming coral recruits, attracted to the patch, are expected to be inoculated by heat adapted algal symbionts, becoming resitant to bleaching.

Relevance for the Short Term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration:
Highly relevant new restoration paradigm for coral reefs

STAPER categories:
  • A1: Assess degraded ecosystems
  • A5: Assess institutional, policy, and legal frameworks & identify financial/technical resources
  • A6: Identify options to reduce the drivers biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation
  • B1: Review, improve or establish legal, policy and financial frameworks for restoration
  • B10: Promote and support capacity-building, training, and technology transfer
  • C1: Identify appropriate measures for conducting ecosystem restoration
  • C3: Develop ecosystem restoration plans with clear/measurable objectives and goals  
  • C5: Implement the measures
  • D2: Adjust plans, expectations, procedures, and monitoring through adaptive management
  • D3: Share lessons learned from planning, financing, implementing and monitoring ecosystem restoration plans

Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed Article