Including coral reef condition and environmental change into protected area design for future conservation outcomes.

Ms Madeline Davey1

1School of Biological Sciences, University Of Queensland,  Brisbane, Australia, 2Center for Conservation and Biodiversity Sciences , Brisbane, Australia

Coral reefs are among the world’s most productive and diverse ecosystems, yet they are also one of the most threatened, suffering from significant and often deleterious anthropocentric and natural disturbances and changes. Environmental change has already shown declines and shifts in ecosystem state, changes in species distribution, and overall loss of biodiversity in coral reefs, making it critical we optimally manage and protect them to ensure they continue to maintain biodiversity, and provide the ecosystem services required into the future. This study looks at the potential conservation benefits that data on the condition of coral reefs could bring to protected area design. Currently, decisions on protected area design assume all coral reefs contribute equally to conservation outcomes, but this is not the case. By looking at the non-homogenous nature of coral reefs, this study integrates existing data collected from monitoring projects with predictive modelling on the condition of coral reefs to make informed decisions for conservation outcomes under the realities of a shifting future of environmental change, aiming to provide better optimisation tools for conservation and management. Including habitat condition into marine spatial planning could improve the overall success of MPAs under rapid environmental change. This is critical, as there is increasing change and disturbances to coral reefs that MPAs are unable to prevent, so the design needs to be better informed by data that is easily applied to designing protected areas for practitioners.


Madeline is a PhD student at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research is looking at the condition of coral reefs for decision science and optimisation of conservation outcomes. She has previously worked in marine biology, education, ecology and policy. Madeline is passionate about saving coral reefs to ensure the benefits they provide can be maintained for future generations

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