Assessing and Monitoring Reef Resilience

Coral reef monitoring, Palmyra Atoll. Photo © Tim Calver

The ability to assess the relative resilience of coral reefs has advanced dramatically in recent years. To support reef managers in assessing and monitoring reef resilience, we present a 10-step process to help managers to assess, map and monitor coral reef resilience, and guide the prioritization of actions that support resilience in the face of climate change. These steps represent the culmination of over a decade of experience and builds on ideas first presented by West and Salm (2003), opens in a new windowObura and Grimsditchopens PDF file (2009), and opens in a new windowMcClanahan et al.opens PDF file (2012).

The 10-step process to assess coral reef resilience (click to enlarge, from  opens in a new windowMaynard et al. 2017opens PDF file ):

Resilience Assessment 10-Step Processopens IMAGE file

Resilience assessments can help to:

  • Identify sites that have coral communities likely to be more resilient to climate change and other human stressors
  • Identify differences among sites in exposure to stressors
  • Evaluate whether current MPAs include high resilience sites
  • Help managers to prioritize management actions or strategies that will reduce stress at the greatest number of sites, at high resilience sites, and/or at sites that are a conservation priority for other reasons
  • Provide an early warning of decreases in important resilience drivers
  • Provide information to adaptively manage coral reefs following major disturbances, such as coral bleaching events or severe storms


Deciding Whether to Conduct a Resilience Assessment

Resilience assessments can be resource and labor intensive. Therefore, it is important to consider whether the need from the information outweighs the cost of undertaking an assessment. Any assessment will need to be tailored to the available resources and should include a budget for both data collection and analysis. Resilience assessments are most useful when the results can be used to directly inform management actions. To ensure resilience assessments influence management decisions, they should be timed to coordinate with management decision-making processes (e.g., the zoning or rezoning of an MPA or MPA network) and should include managers in the data collection and/or analysis.

Finally, some coral reef areas may be very homogeneous with respect to coral communities and impacts to those communities. In these areas, resilience potential may not vary significantly so resilience assessments may not inform management actions. To assess homogeneity, managers may assess whether their selected resilience indicators vary for reefs in their area by either reviewing monitoring data or speaking with local experts or other specialists. Managers may decide that a resilience assessment is not useful for informing management actions if, for example, over half of the selected resilience indicators do not vary significantly in their area.

For additional information, see the follow pages to explore:

These pages were developed in collaboration with Dr. Jeffery Maynard. Contact him at maynardmarine@gmail.comcreate new email for more information.

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