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Building resilience into practical conservation: identifying local management responses to global climate change in the southern Great Barrier Reef

Abstract

Climate change is now considered the greatest long-term threat to coral reefs, with some future change inevitable despite mitigation efforts. Managers must therefore focus on supporting the natural resilience of reefs, requiring that resilient reefs and reef regions be identified. We develop a framework for assessing resilience and trial it by applying the framework to target management responses to climate change on the southern Great Barrier Reef. The framework generates a resilience score for a site based on the evaluation of 19 differentially weighted indicators known or thought to confer resilience to coral reefs. Scores are summed, and sites within a region are ranked in terms of (1) their resilience relative to the other sites being assessed, and (2) the extent to which managers can influence their resilience. The framework was applied to 31 sites in Keppel Bay of the southern Great Barrier Reef, which has a long history of disturbance and recovery. Resilience and ‘management influence potential’ were both found to vary widely in Keppel Bay, informing site selection for the staged implementation of resilience-based management strategies. The assessment framework represents a step towards making the concept of resilience operational to reef managers and conservationists. Also, it is customisable, easy to teach and implement and effective in building support among local communities and stakeholders for management responses to climate change.

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Acknowledgments

This work was made possible through funding from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Department of Climate Change, and from the AEDA CERF Hub and the University of Melbourne to J. Maynard. The manuscript and the ideas herein benefited greatly from discussions with R. Salm, D. Obura, S. Wear, A. Green and M. Marnane. C. Maple, J. Olds and D. Orgill were instrumental to the testing of this framework in Keppel Bay. Figures were created in collaboration with R. Banks, D. Tracey and C. Collier.

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Correspondence to J. A. Maynard.

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Communicated by Ecology Editor Prof. Peter Mumby

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Maynard, J.A., Marshall, P.A., Johnson, J.E. et al. Building resilience into practical conservation: identifying local management responses to global climate change in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 29, 381–391 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-010-0603-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-010-0603-8

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Coral reefs
  • Environmental management
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Resilience