What is RBM?

TNC Hawai‘i Program divers conducting a resilience assessment along West Hawai‘i Island coast. Photo © David Slater

Resilience-based management (RBM) is defined as using knowledge of current and future drivers influencing ecosystem function to prioritize, implement, and adapt management actions that sustain ecosystems and human well-being.ref The main goal of RBM is to identify and prioritize management actions that enhance ecosystem resilience, which is the capacity of a system to absorb or withstand stressors so that the system maintains its structure and functions in the face of disturbance and change and can adapt to future challenges.ref  RBM is founded on understanding how the system works, and directing management actions to protect or enhance natural processes of resilience. 

Watch a presentation about RBM by Dr. Lizzie McLeod or download the presentation PDF:

RBM seeks to protect the processes and species (including humans) that support the reef’s capacity to withstand and recover from disturbance. This requires an understanding of how a local coral reef ecosystem is likely to respond to a diversity of impacts at different scales.ref Ultimately, management objectives for RBM will be different depending on the local context, including different threats and enabling conditions that support or challenge reef management. RBM examples include:

Ecological examples:

  • Reducing local threats to reefs, such as land-based pollution, overfishing, and coastal development, which cause stress to corals and make them less able to resist and recover from climate-driven impacts. See this Case Study from Malaysia on how resilience assessments led to management actions that reduced local threats and increased reef resilience.
  • Supporting reef ecosystem recovery processes like recruitment, which allow new corals to reseed reefs, and herbivory, which removes macroalgae that make it difficult for coral larvae to settle onto reef substrate. See this Case Study from Belize on how protecting herbivores enabled reef recovery.

Social examples:

Coral reef fishing in Belize. Photo © Randy Olson

Coral reef fishing in Belize. Photo © Randy Olson

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