Keynote Presentation (30 mins) Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

KEYNOTE: Managing Future Coral Reefs: a Functional Perspective (#13)

David R Bellwood 1
  1. College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

It is clear that the world is changing and that many ecosystems are rapidly transitioning. However, we are faced with a dilemma, especially in terms of management. Traditional management, be it fisheries or conservation, has focussed on maintaining species. Under this traditional approach it is assumed that if the populations of focal species are intact then the goods and services we expect from an ecosystem will be secure. For example, early management of the Great Barrier Reef largely revolved around protecting fisheries targets or iconic organisms (e.g. coral trout or turtles) by managing the primary stressor (extraction). But what happens when species disappear or change because of stressors operating at far broader spatial scales, for example when corals are lost due to bleaching? Is the goal now to reinstate these species in this new context? But what is it that we miss when corals are lost? The coral species or the functions that they provided? Are corals an essential component of reefs or are they merely an outer layer, the colourful wallpaper on the reef? This talk will explore such difficult questions by assessing the difference between traditional species-based approaches vs. functional approaches to reef ecology, management and intervention/restoration.