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Conserving Coral Reefs

The world’s ocean is facing dire threats — and coral reef ecosystems are on the frontlines. Unrestrained tourism, declining water quality, and overfishing continue to endanger coral ecosystems but climate change has become their biggest threat. Even with drastic emission reductions, most of the world’s corals could still vanish by mid-century. But there’s hope: climate resilient corals have been found around the world. Reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and managing local pressures on resilient reefs, allows these reefs to thrive and replenish neighboring reefs – ensuring the long-term survival of our world’s coral reefs.

Coral reef ecosystems around the globe are likely to disappear by 2050 if the goals of the Paris Agreement are not met.

Even with drastic emission reductions to ensure we keep warming within 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, 70-90% of the world’s corals could still vanish by mid-century, leaving only remnants of the reefs we see today.

About Vibrant Oceans Coral Reef Conservation

In 2018, the 50 Reefs study, a key pillar of our coral reef conservation program, identified a global portfolio of the world’s coral reefs that are the most likely to survive climate change. Managing local pressures, like water pollution and overfishing, on these reefs is critical to their survival. The Vibrant Oceans Initiative uses the science of the 50 Reefs study to guide our approach to protecting coral reefs, working with partners Rare, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and others to advance on-the-ground conservation projects to protect these climate resilient coral reefs.


TOP 5 Human Pressures on Coral Reefs

Infographic

Top 5 Human Pressures on Coral Reefs

We know climate change is having a huge impact on coral reefs – but what are the human pressures on coral reefs?

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Coral reefs are home to over a quarter of all ocean life. They are also a source of food, livelihoods, and cultural heritage for 500 million people, and protect coastlines and communities from storms and erosion.

Research and reports

Our work is guided by science, and since the original 50 Reefs study, we have produced a number of reports to inform our coral conservation efforts.

The Role of Coral Reef Small-Scale Fisheries for Addressing Malnutrition and Avoiding Biodiversity Loss

April 2022

Integrated management of coral reef foods, as a highly diverse set of blue foods, can contribute to addressing the dual challenges of malnutrition and biodiversity loss. This whitepaper advances current understanding of nutrition from coral reef foods and outline how nutrition, coral reef small-scale fisheries, and communities intersect. Aspects of equity and food sovereignty are reviewed as a basis for contextualizing current scientific understanding of nutrition while acknowledging who is actually benefiting nutritionally and materially from coral reef fisheries. To encourage the development of nutrition-sensitive coral reef governance, recommendations include: prioritize coral reef foods for local nutrition; advance gender equity and social inclusion; adopt a systems approach for coral reef foods; integrate food system policies with fisheries, public health, and development; strengthen SSF rights, access, and governance; assess and monitor coral reef foods systems.

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Forecasting Climate Sanctuaries for Securing the Future of Coral Reefs

April 2022

Since the launch of the 50 Reefs portfolio in 2018, the world’s coral reefs have experienced continued climate change impacts that have led to mass coral bleaching and mortality. Drawing on thirty years of research, we highlight the environmental and biological factors that predict the ongoing climate impacts of coral reefs, and explore the potential for adaptation, acclimation and stress tolerance of coral reefs. The whitepaper’s recommendations are to: continue with the 50 Reefs approach; expand the 50 Reefs conservation portfolio for climate change to include avoidance, resistance, and recovery sanctuaries; increase support for regional evaluations and sustainable financing initiatives to support the implementation of regional portfolios; catalyze large-scale, data-driven coral reef monitoring efforts to test and develop new models and improve future predictions of climate sanctuaries.

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Managing Watersheds for Coral Reefs and Public Health

March 2022

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set ambitious targets for social progress, human health, and marine biodiversity protection. These global goals cannot be achieved without cross-sectoral collaboration to address integrated water management. This whitepaper outlines the critical links between water quality, public health, and coral reef health, and explains how strategic investments can enable the achievement of multiple SDGs.

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Sustainable Financing for Coral Reef Conservation

March 2022

Identifying sustainable finance opportunities is key to ensuring that conservation can be funded in perpetuity. The launch of the Global Fund for Coral Reefs has identified new global partnerships for sustainable financing of coral reefs conservation. This whitepaper reviews models of blended finance appropriate to coral reef conservation globally, including a holistic look at sustainable finance to increase local revenue streams and decrease pressure on coral reef ecosystems.

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Sustainable financing for coral reef conservation

Coral Reef Governance: Strengthening Community and Collaborative Approaches

February 2022

Strengthening the enabling conditions for successful coral reef conservation is one of the most pressing challenges facing communities, scientists, managers, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and funders in the 21st century. This whitepaper offers insights for improving coral reef governance through a set of foundational principles including support for local decision-making, building and linking social, institutional, natural, human and financial capital across scales, scaling-up conservation successes, diversifying approaches to conservation, supporting equity, rights, and justice, and monitoring and management of emerging threats. Although coral reef conservation and governance is place-based and context-specific, there remain several opportunities for stakeholders to contribute to conservation objectives by: rebuilding and strengthening local institutions, planning for long-term funding, sharing diverse voices and experiences, ensuring diverse knowledge for decision-making, and monitoring progress towards social and ecological objectives.

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Empowering local leaders and strengthening governance

Threat Report Cards

January 2022

A team of scientists led by WCS identified top threats to the most resilient reefs and developed a series of threat report cards that provide a guide to begin conservation planning in each reef geography.

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A Global Map of Human Pressures on Tropical Coral Reefs

December 2021

This paper provides a more detailed analysis of the findings from the threat mapping that was done to develop the threat report cards. The results show that coral reefs are exposed to multiple pressures provide the best information to ensure effective local management of the world’s coral reefs.

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50 Reefs Landscape Assessment

November 2021

This report details the impact of the 50 Reefs study in motivating investment into science-backed coral conservation and outlines opportunities for future investment.

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50 Reefs Landscape Assessment

Opportunities for Coral Reef Wins at the Ocean-Climate Nexus

November 2021

As ocean-climate conservation and policy accelerates ahead of the 2022 Convention On Biological Diversity Conference of Parties (CBD COP) and the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP, this whitepaper reviews past wins and current opportunities for coral reefs, at the intersection of ocean and climate.

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Opportunities for coral reef wins at the ocean-climate nexus

Risk-Sensitive Planning for Conserving Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change

June 2018

In this study, informally known as the 50 Reefs, a team of scientists lead by Hawthorne L. Beyer identified coral reef locations globally that, in the absence of other impacts, are more likely to survive projected climate changes than other reefs.

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Risk-sensitive planning for conserving coral reefs under rapid climate change

Partners

Funding partners of the initial study include the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. For our ongoing conservation work, partners include Oceans 5, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and Tiffany & Co. Foundation. Conservation partners include WCS, Rare, The Nature Conservancy, Blue Ventures, and Conservation Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

Top photo: Ribbon Reefs, Australia Credit: Matt Curnock / Ocean Image Bank

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