Coral reef resilience refers to building resistance and recovery potential into reef ecosystems by reducing or eliminating stressors (e.g., overfishing, pollution, coastal development). As mentioned, coral reef resilience relates to a reef ecosystem’s ability to resist disturbance and recover towards a coral-rich state, and/or to maintain morphological diversity as opposed to shifting to an algal-dominated state or a single coral morphology. ref It emphasizes the importance of managing the capacity of reef ecosystems to cope with and adapt to change instead of trying to prevent change altogether. Coral reef resilience is ultimately about coral reef health. Having a healthy “immune system” helps coral communities to better cope with and recover from major stress events such as storm impacts or mass coral bleaching events. Building resilience into coral reef conservation means helping to strengthen the “immune system” of coral reef ecosystems to increase the likelihood that they will continue to thrive.
Managing a coral reef ecosystem for resilience includes supporting coral community health and ecosystem function as a whole. The diverse assemblage of corals, associated habitats (e.g., seagrass beds and mangroves), fishes, macroalgae, and other invertebrates that function as an ecological unit require holistic management strategies. Taking a holistic approach can enhance reef resilience and productivity of reefs into the future.