(ecological intelligence for reef restoration)

Monitoring reef condition

Monitoring reef condition. Photo: Juergen Freund, courtesy of AIMS.

The EcoRRAP R&D Subprogram will fill key knowledge gaps essential for the success and cost-effectiveness of reef restoration interventions.

An integrated field program, EcoRRAP will provide data on region-, temperature- and species-specific coral life-histories.

It will quantify natural rates of recovery and adaptation in response to global and local changes, as well as rates of recovery in response to interventions.

The central objective is to optimise interventions by understanding the ‘how, where, and when’ of natural reef recovery, centred around four themes:

  • integrated field-testing
  • limitations to natural coral recovery
  • the natural capacity of common coral species to adapt to a changing climate
  • environment-specific ecosystem and community recovery processes.

These foundational data will help inform assumptions and decisions across the whole of RRAP and enable the success and cost-effectiveness of intervention research and development.

Scope and expected outcomes

EcoRRAP will employ the following strategies:

1. Design and implement a field-testing program...

for a representative selection of reefs where natural reef recovery processes will be studied in detail to provide the biophysical data needed for intervention R&D and modelling. The reefs will be chosen in consultation with Traditional Owners and other critical stakeholders and will be based on logistical considerations such as cost of access and presence of research stations.

2. Address key ecological questions...

underlying RRAP intervention research and development, and the program’s management decisions. Provide data and knowledge on location-, temperature- and species-specific processes that facilitate reef recovery, including coral and algal life histories, limitations in early life stages, community dynamics and rates of natural adaptation in response to global and local changes, and in response to interventions.

3. Closely collaborate...

with decision support scientists and ecological modellers, to address their data needs and to synthesise information.

Current projects

Integrated Field Testing

Alongside subprogram management and coordination, this project is focused on the establishment and long-term monitoring of Reference Reef sites across the length and breadth of the Reef. The Reference Reef sites provide critical baseline data sets to support RRAP decision makers in determining the how, why, and where of intervention deployment.

Limits to Early Recovery

This project aims to inform coral restoration planning by identifying agents of mortality for juvenile corals and how these vary in relation to environmental and ecological interactions, as well as defining the ideal size and density of adult corals to overcome reproduction bottlenecks and support larval production to optimise natural recovery.

Ecological and Genetic Adaptation

This project will generate knowledge on the important traits driving natural recovery and adaptation to both disturbances like heat stress and to restoration interventions. The project will investigate the variation of these traits across space, time, environments, and species. 

Subprogram leaders:

Subprogram team members:

Dr Manuel Gonzales-Rivero

Prof Andrew Hoey

Ms Anthea Donovan

Mr Damian Thomson

Dr Melanie Orr

Dr Pascal Craw


Third-party roles in delivery will include collaboration with University of Sydney, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Traditional Owners and other parties as required.