Leader D. Mouillot


Fish is the mainstay of food security and incomes for half a billion people living close to coral reefs while fish biomass and biodiversity are also essential for the maintenance of healthy and productive reefs. Within the context of local and global changes the provision of food provided by coral reefs is imperiled. In many cases, social drivers such as poverty and market integration interact with ecological dynamics to create social-ecological traps that dramatically impact human societies. Avoiding or escaping these traps and identifying the most vulnerable coral reef social-ecological systems on Earth are among the major issues that scientists, nations, non-governmental organizations, and managers are facing today.


The project aims to move beyond the typical over-simplified ‘human impacts’ storyline and focus on uncovering new solutions based on a prospective and integrated modelling approach of coral reef social-ecological systems at the global scale. To tackle this issue we will use a global database to define ‘envelopes of sustainability’ for coral reef social-ecological systems where boundaries, materialized as social-ecological variables, cannot be overpassed at the risk of irreversibly degrading coral reefs and imperiling fish provision with deleterious effects particularly on the poorest human societies. The project will be based on three activities:

  1. Assemble a global database of sociological, environmental, and biological information on coral reef systems,
  2. Model the potentially complex and hierarchical relationships among drivers undermining the state of coral reef ecosystems, and identify critical thresholds in such relationships above which such systems may collapse and fail to supply food provision via fish biomass,
  3. Develop and test integrated scenarios to inform decision making and to map the potential futures of global coral reef systems.


To achieve these activities the project will be based on an international consortium of researchers in coral reef ecology, socio-economy and system modelling. The project will also cement the relationship between the University of Montpellier and the University of James Cook (Australia) through meetings, seminars and teaching sessions. The dissemination of the results to local stakeholders will be achieved through non-governmental agencies.