Designing a blueprint for coral reef survival

Joan Kleypas, Denis Allemand, Ken Anthony, Andrew C. Baker, Michael W. Beck, Lynne Zeitlin Hale, Nathalie Hilmi, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Terry Hughes, Les Kaufman, Hajime Kayanne, Alexandre K. Magnan, Elizabeth Mcleod, Peter Mumby, Stephen Palumbi, Robert H. Richmond, Baruch Rinkevich, Robert S. Steneck, Christian R. Voolstra, David WachenfeldJean Pierre Gattuso

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Maintaining coral reef ecosystems is a social imperative, because so many people depend on coral reefs for food production, shoreline protection, and livelihoods. The survival of reefs this century, however, is threatened by the mounting effects of climate change. Climate mitigation is the foremost and essential action to prevent coral reef ecosystem collapse. Without it, reefs will become extremely diminished within the next 20–30 years. Even with strong climate mitigation, however, existing conservation measures such as marine protected areas and fisheries management are no longer sufficient to sustain the ecosystem and many additional and innovative actions to increase reef resilience must also be taken. In this paper we assess the suite of protections and actions in terms of their potential to be effective according to a set of criteria that include effectiveness, readiness, co-benefits and disbenefits. Even with the best scientific innovation, saving coral reefs will require a well-funded, well-designed, and rapidly executed strategy with political and social commitments at the level of other grand challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109107
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is dedicated to the memory of our colleague and friend Ruth Gates. We thank M. Khamla for help with artwork and Ruben van Hooidonk for providing the reef locations, and two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive comments. This work is sponsored by the Pew Marine Fellows Program and “The Oceans Solutions Initiative” supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation , the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre of the International Atomic Energy Agency , the Veolia Foundation , the French Facility for Global Environment , and the STORISK project ( ANR-15CE03-0003 ). Modeled data presented in Fig. 1 A, B are based upon work supported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research , which is a major facility sponsored by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 1852977 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Climate change
  • Conservation strategy
  • Coral reefs
  • Ecosystem restoration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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