Coral restoration and adaptation in Australia:The first five years

McLeod, Ian M. and Hein, Margaux Y. and Babcock, Russ and Bay, Line and Bourne, David G. and Cook, Nathan and Doropoulos, Christopher and Gibbs, Mark and Harrison, Peter and Lockie, Stewart and van Oppen, Madeleine J. H. and Mattocks, Neil and Page, Cathie A. and Randall, Carly J. and Smith, Adam and Smith, Hillary A. and Suggett, David J. and Taylor, Bruce and Vella, Karen J. and Wachenfeld, David and Boström-Einarsson, Lisa (2022) Coral restoration and adaptation in Australia:The first five years. PLoS One, 17 (11). ISSN 1932-6203

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While coral reefs in Australia have historically been a showcase of conventional management informed by research, recent declines in coral cover have triggered efforts to innovate and integrate intervention and restoration actions into management frameworks. Here we outline the multi-faceted intervention approaches that have developed in Australia since 2017, from newly implemented in-water programs, research to enhance coral resilience and investigations into socio-economic perspectives on restoration goals. We describe in-water projects using coral gardening, substrate stabilisation, coral repositioning, macro-algae removal, and larval-based restoration techniques. Three areas of research focus are also presented to illustrate the breadth of Australian research on coral restoration, (1) the transdisciplinary Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP), one of the world’s largest research and development programs focused on coral reefs, (2) interventions to enhance coral performance under climate change, and (3) research into socio-cultural perspectives. Together, these projects and the recent research focus reflect an increasing urgency for action to confront the coral reef crisis, develop new and additional tools to manage coral reefs, and the consequent increase in funding opportunities and management appetite for implementation. The rapid progress in trialling and deploying coral restoration in Australia builds on decades of overseas experience, and advances in research and development are showing positive signs that coral restoration can be a valuable tool to improve resilience at local scales (i.e., high early survival rates across a variety of methods and coral species, strong community engagement with local stakeholders). RRAP is focused on creating interventions to help coral reefs at multiple scales, from micro scales (i.e., interventions targeting small areas within a specific reef site) to large scales (i.e., interventions targeting core ecosystem function and social-economic values at multiple select sites across the Great Barrier Reef) to resist, adapt to and recover from the impacts of climate change. None of these interventions aim to single-handedly restore the entirety of the Great Barrier Reef, nor do they negate the importance of urgent climate change mitigation action.

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Journal Article
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PLoS One
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08 Dec 2022 14:55
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 02:09