As climate change continues to be a leading cause of coral reef decline across the globe, reef managers increasingly are seeking management and conservation actions that can help them prioritize and enhance reef resilience. Resilience assessments are one tool available to help managers and decision-makers identify reefs that may have the capacity to withstand climate change, identify particular attributes or indicators that are harming or improving resilience, and  prioritize management actions based on this information at particular locations. Although resilience assessments have been conducted in all major coral reef areas since 2007, it remained unclear whether reef managers routinely applied assessment results to prioritize management actions and implement conservation projects to support reef resilience. This study analyses 65 reef resilience assessments that were implemented in all major coral reef regions. While approximately half (52%) of assessments were used to inform conservation actions, 37% were not used in management actions, and management application of 11% were unknown. The most common actions resulting from reef resilience assessments include spatial planning, monitoring and evaluation, local threat management, fisheries management, and reef restoration. A major aim of the study was also identify the enabling conditions and challenges of resilience assessment implementation and provide recommendations for future implementation.

Recommendations provided seek to guide future managers on how to structure their work so that it facilitates the use and application of resilience assessments in management actions. These recommendations include: building local support for resilience assessments to encourage political and community will; selecting locally-relevant resilience indicators that can be reliably assessed in your location; coordinating the timing of resilience assessments with management decision-making processes; standardizing costs of resilience assessments; and providing a cost-benefit analysis of assessments alongside pertinent management actions. Paying attention to potential barriers and enabling conditions such as political will, favorable timing, and engaging stakeholders may help reef managers implement resilience assessment results to achieve positive conservation outcomes.

Authors: McLeod, E., E.C. Shaver, M. Beger, J. Koss, and G. Grimsditch
Year: 2021
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Journal of Environmental Management 277. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111384

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