Reef Resilience Network

The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions completed a $13.5 million, 10-year partnership to support the effective management and protection of coral reefs. Here’s a peek at how that partnership translated to work on-the-ground and in-the-sea – and what that means for coral reefs around the world.

Where We Work

Coral reefs cover less than one tenth of one percent of the ocean, yet they are among the most biologically diverse, culturally significant and economically valuable ecosystems on the planet. The Reef Resilience Network (the Network) works around the world to accelerate and leverage solutions for improved conservation and restoration of coral reefs and reef fisheries.

Our Approach

Healthy coral reefs provide billions of dollars in food, jobs, recreational opportunities, coastal protection and other important goods and services to people around the world. However, 75 percent of the world’s reefs are under threat from pollution, unsustainable fishing practices and global climate change.

To help marine managers on the front lines of coral reef conservation address these threats and mobilize action for improved coral health, the Network connects them with peers, content experts, tools and operational knowledge. More specifically, the Network:

  • Synthesizes and shares the latest science and management strategies to keep busy managers inspired and in-the-know.
  • Connects coral reef managers to peers and experts to share resources and lessons learned to inform and improve management decisions and inspire greater collaboration.
  • Supports on-the-ground action by providing training and seed funding to launch education, monitoring and threat abatement projects.

Our Accomplishments

The Network has provided in-person and online training to more than 4,100 managers working in 76 percent of the 103 countries and territories with coral reefs, resulting in participant-led trainings for an additional 986 stakeholders. Our reach stretches even further through online connection activities, such as webinars and discussion forums, resulting in a better informed and networked cohort of marine resource managers.

  • Connected global managers and practitioners to peers and leading experts in coral-related fields through 42 e-newsletters, 50 interactive webinars on hot topics in reef management (attended by 2,100 managers), and the Network Forum, an online discussion forum to share ideas and resources.
  • Worked with experts to synthesize information on science and management tools and techniques and create searchable summaries of journal articles about resilience science and case studies highlighting successful management strategies—and then shared these products with resource managers via our online toolkit. More than 190,000 individuals have visited the network website to read 59 case studies, 145+ summaries of cutting-edge resilience science articles and new featured content that includes reef restoration, blue carbon, communication, community-based climate adaptation and coral reef fisheries.
  • Designed and executed trainings for 1,300 managers to help them incorporate resilience concepts into their management strategies, apply cutting-edge science to resource management and encourage increased knowledge sharing within and across regions. In addition to in-person trainings, we provided online trainings in English, French, and Spanish to 2,700 participants. Through these trainings—for 1,300+ individuals in 24 countries that received project seed funding—managers and practitioners from around the world have:
    • Developed and implemented response plans for coral bleaching, coral disease and invasive species.
    • Applied new reef monitoring programs and protocols to inform resilience-based management strategies.
    • Created a coral restoration area that incorporates resilience-based management principles.
    • Created a coral restoration area that incorporates resilience-based management principles.
    • Developed a new reef resilience program in the U.S. Virgin Islands that has shaped policy, made critical management decisions and created a coral bleaching monitoring and response plan.
    • Incorporated reef resilience principles into existing spatial management plans to support the long-term health of coral reefs.
    • Applied resilience science to the design of Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks.
    • Built the capacity of people at all levels—managers, enforcement personnel, educators, policy-makers, students, community members, fishermen, tourism operators, and more—to strengthen community resilience and mobilize action for improved coral health.
    • Applied new tools for community-based climate adaptation.
    • Produced publishable journal and media articles.

Success Story: Using Art to Protect Reefs in Puerto Rico

With funding and mentorship support from the Reef Resilience Network, artist Paco Lopez-Mujica of Arrecifes Pro Ciudad—a community-based organization that manages the Isla Verde Marine Reserve in Puerto Rico—developed a cooking oil recycling program to protect the health of Isla Verde’s coral reefs. Over time, cooking oil from condominiums builds up and blocks pipes carrying wastewater, resulting in sewage overflows in the streets and on the beach. Sewage carries harmful levels of nutrients and sediment into coastal waters that can harm coral reefs and fish communities.

To encourage residents to take action to keep cooking oil out of their pipes, Paco designed a graphic manual with artistic illustrations that inform residents on proper cooking oil disposal. He also held meetings at eight condominiums located near the Isla Verde Marine Reserve. All eight condominiums voluntarily adopted and implemented the cooking oil recycling program, and the program has since expanded throughout Isla Verde.

In addition, Paco is working with the municipalities of San Juan and Carolina and expects the recycling program to be adopted throughout both regions in the near future. Paco next hopes to determine the long-term impact of the cooking oil recycling program. To help him achieve this, the Environment Protection Agency has provided Arrecifes Pro Ciudad with monitoring equipment to collect water quality data in the Marine Reserve.

“Before the Reef Resilience online course and training, I didn’t know much about marine conservation. I was a rookie. This training taught me useful lessons about the value of coral reefs and the important relationship between coral reef health and urban regions.”  –Paco Lopez, Arrecifes Pro Ciudad



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