Severe degradation of coral reefs in recent decades has been driven by a range of threatening processes including climate change. Ocean warming is expected to have further severe impacts on reefs unless global warming is restrained well below 2°C (the goals of the Paris Agreement).
Not all coral reefs are equally at risk from climate change, however, suggesting the potential for identifying reefs for conservation action that are less vulnerable to climate change and which may be best positioned for regenerating other degraded reefs in the future.
There is uncertainty in future conditions. Variance reduction methods from finance (e.g., modern portfolio theory) can be applied to conservation planning to identify a portfolio of coral reefs for which the risk of widespread failure across the portfolio is minimised.
Long-term, risk-sensitive planning in the context of the uncertainty of projected climate impacts complements existing conservation strategies.