Bleaching events can develop suddenly, with little time for preparation and mounting a response. Bleaching response plans are an important tool for ensuring reef managers are ready and able to respond appropriately to coral bleaching events. A bleaching response plan describes the steps for detecting, assessing and responding to bleaching events. It enables managers to be ready should a bleaching event occur. This can be important for the way the incident is portrayed in the media, for ensuring credibility with stakeholders, and to prepare for appropriate management actions. Bleaching response plans commonly have a combination of routine and responsive tasks; responsive tasks are implemented when certain thresholds or triggers are reached.
Developing a Bleaching Response Plan
Pre-planning before a bleaching event allows managers to quickly respond when bleaching happens. It is critical to plan ahead for staffing, funding, communications, and monitoring. Having a plan in place will also help managers to gain credibility and political support with reef users and decision-makers. When developing bleaching response plans, it is important to include relevant stakeholders and partners, as well as senior officers from within the management organization. Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of all organizations and individuals involved in a response is also crucial to the effectiveness of a plan. There are some excellent guides and tools (see Resources, below) to assist in preparing and responding to coral bleaching events. We have also developed a worksheet to guide managers through developing a bleaching response plan. This tool can help managers consider a range of issues that support a response, including:
- Predicting mass bleaching events
- Setting thresholds for response actions
- Assessing the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of mass bleaching
- Monitoring pre- and post-bleaching to identify resilient reef areas
- Communicating about mass bleaching before, during and after the event
- Implementing management interventions that may increase coral survival during events
- Securing funding for a response
- Identifying and strengthenomg capacities required for a response
Once a reef has been affected by a coral bleaching event, managers might wish to consider local management interventions or ecological restoration strategies to support recovery processes. However, coral bleaching events often occur at spatial scales of tens to hundreds of kilometres, making restoration an expensive and difficult – if not impossible – prospect.