Themes and Sessions

Theme: Coral Reef Histories

Jani Tanzil, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Mengli Chen, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Jennie Lee, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia

Nathalie Goodkin, American Museum of Natural History, United States of America

Alan Hsieh, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Coral reef environments have experienced a variety of environmental and climatic changes in recent times and the geological past. Historical insights into corals, and the long-term environmental forcings and dynamics that have shaped the range of reef ecosystems we have today, will provide further clues into their future responses and what is required to ensure their continued survival. Coral reefs are their own time capsules, serving as natural archives of past events, environment and climate. Combining historical records with modern observations can provide key insights into bettering projections and management strategies of coral reefs. Corals are key archives of past climate and environmental conditions, filling gaps and extending records where and when reliable monitoring are lacking. This session aims to present quantitative reconstructions of past reef environment (i.e., recent or historical trends in climate, pollution, disturbance events etc), and the responses of corals to long-term environmental changes (e.g. growth rates, responses to past bleaching events etc). Contributions that present methods and advancements for quantitative environmental reconstructions (e.g., proxy/multi-proxy developments and calibration, analytic approaches and issues, spatio-temporal integration of reconstructed information etc) will also be featured.

Joyce Ong, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Stephen Newman, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Australia

Chien-Hsiang Lin, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

The marine environment is rapidly changing and affecting marine organisms across taxa, trophic levels and life histories. Understanding the impacts of these changes is crucial for us to better manage our limited and declining marine resources. This is especially important in the Asia-Pacific region, a region characterized by tremendous biodiversity, high levels of anthropogenic pressures (e.g., fishing, urban development, pollution) and a heavy dependence on marine resources for food security and livelihoods of many of its residents. Sclerochronology approaches across taxa (e.g., fish and molluscs) have been used to assess past changes in growth due to climatic events, information that can be used to prepare for similar scenarios in the future. Such approaches have been applied to the otoliths of fish, calcified structures that record a wealth of information such as demography (age and growth), movement and environmental effects (using microchemistry approaches). This session aims to advance knowledge of the impacts of environmental changes on tropical/sub-tropical marine organisms and contribute to the integrated assessment and governance of aquatic resources. We will feature contributions that use sclerochronology approaches on the calcified structures of marine organisms, including growth increment analyses, microchemistry analyses and other related approaches.

Kyle Morgan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Coral reefs are biogenic landforms constructed through the long-term growth and subsequent death of calcifying reef organisms. They also provide the physical foundation for large sedimentary deposits (e.g., reef islands) comprised of detrital carbonate sediment produced by reefs. Natural and human-induced changes in environmental conditions have altered reef communities through time influencing reef and island development. An understanding of past reef growth, historical ecological communities and paleoenvironments can provide important insight into how reefs will respond in the Anthropocene. This multidisciplinary session will feature submissions relating to the long-term development of coral reefs and islands across a range of spatial and temporal scales, including: Holocene reef growth; coral reef paleoecology; Pleistocene reefs; reef island geomorphology; carbonate sedimentology; sea-level reconstructions using corals; historical records of sea level and environmental change; fossil coral reefs; reef morphodynamic processes.

Theme: Diversity, Ecology and Evolution

Yap Wei Liang Nicholas, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Zarinah Waheed, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia

Bee Yan Lee,Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Bert W. Hoeksema, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands

Marine biodiversity plays a critical role in the life of many people living in tropical coastal areas. Because this diversity is threatened at regional and local scales, it needs protection. To be able to conserve coral reef biodiversity, we need to understand it. However, the taxonomy of many reef organisms in the Asia-Pacific region remains poorly resolved, and inter-specific associations are severely understudied. This session is aimed at showcasing research on reef benthic diversity, including species’ classification, distributions, as well as the role of coral symbionts and other reef-associated symbioses. Participants will share their findings on the systematics of reef-associated organisms and novel strategies for advancing the field of reef benthic biodiversity.

James Davis Reimer, University of the Ryukyus

Francesca Benzoni, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

Peter Cowman, James Cook University, Australia

The myriad of life forms on the coral reef have traditionally been studied based on gross morphology, yet a wide variety of data ranging from small-scale morphology to DNA barcodes and genomic sequences have provided a more accurate and holistic picture of coral reef biodiversity in an evolutionary perspective. This session focuses on findings from the integration of novel morphological, phylogenetic and phylogenomic techniques to uncover biodiversity, biogeographic and evolutionary patterns of coral reef organisms. The session will offer valuable perspectives on how phylogenetic studies can contribute to the conservation of Asia-Pacific coral reefs.

Davide Maggioni, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Coral reef structural and biological complexity promotes the establishment of intimate associations among organisms, especially in biodiversity-rich environments such as Indo-Pacific waters. These associations are increasingly being recognised as fundamental for coral reef ecosystems, for instance increasing resistance of symbiome systems to environmental and anthropogenic stressors or, conversely, causing small and large scale disturbances. Despite that, they remain poorly studied and understood. This session aims at gathering information on coral reef associations from multiple points of view and not limited to scleractinian corals, but also including other coral reef dwellers. Integrative and multidisciplinary works focusing on biodiversity, phylogenetics, integrative taxonomy, ecology, and evolution of coral reef associations will be presented.

Mei Lin Neo, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Isis Guibert, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Li Keat Lee, Universiti Malaya

Jeremiah Noelle C Requilme, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Giant clams are iconic members of coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region. Since the seminal paper by Joseph Rosewater in 1965, the number of giant clam species described or resurrected has exactly doubled. This is no doubt due to the steady increase in research studies focused on these large bivalves. However, it remains the fact that giant clams are increasingly threatened by anthropogenic pressures including overfishing and exploitation and global climate change. This session aims to gather fellow researchers and conservation managers to discuss and share their own recent efforts working on these iconic species, from basic ecology, mariculture, population genetics, and conservation science and policy. The greater goal is to build up an informal network for participants to meet others and collaborate on research about these charismatic species.

Zeehan Jaafar, National University of Singapore

Jeffrey Low, National Parks Board, Singapore

Coral reefs are facing unprecedented pressures resulting from threats at the local, regional and global scales. Many anthropogenic activities directly and indirectly impact coral reef ecosystems and organisms therein. Fishes are the most diverse and abundant vertebrate organisms in coral reefs and are integral biological components of these systems. Fish populations maintain ecological processes—trophic dynamics, nutrient transport, sediment regulation, bioerosion, to name a few— that characterise coral systems. For these reasons, they are widely used as foci taxa and environment indicators to understand the changing reefscape. Yet, fishes are extracted at unprecedented rates, threatening the collapse of many fish populations. Studies on coral reef fishes not only advance our fundamental knowledge of the mechanisms that contribute towards ecosystem processes, but further our understanding on impacts from, and mitigative actions for, anthropogenic activities. Broad coverage is intended for this session, with inclusion of topics such as connectivity, fisheries, and socio-economic aspects, of coral fishes in all life stages.

Nicolas Pilcher, Marine Research Foundation, Malaysia

Hie Lim Kim, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Sea turtles are important megafauna species that utilise coral reefs for substantial portions of their life cycles. Hawksbill sea turtles forage on reef invertebrates. Other sea turtle species use reef structures as refuge and development habitats. Across the Asia-Pacific region, many local and regional populations are threatened and in need of conservation action, and these conservation requirements need to be addressed at the greater ecosystem level, including coral reefs. This session will explore the cultural and economic values of sea turtles in the Asia-Pacific region, look at linkages between sea turtles and coral reef ecosystems, and describe the genetics, structure and movements of sea turtles populations inhabiting important coral reef areas across the Asia-Pacific region. These data will inform the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group’s Regional Management Unit (RMU) approach to Red List Assessments, and contribute to future extinction risk assessments.

Michael Connelly, Smithsonian Institution, United States of America

Nikki Traylor-Knowles, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, United States of America

Lindsey K. Deignan, Nanyang Technological University

Corals associate with diverse microbial communities that include Symbiodiniaceae algae, bacteria, viruses, and micro-eukaryotes, however we are still trying to understand how the activity of the coral host innate immune system helps to maintain holobiont homeostasis and prevent infectious disease. This session on coral immunity and microbiome interactions will feature research investigating how cellular and molecular mechanisms of coral host immunity mediate the spectrum of coral-microbe interactions, from beneficial symbioses to pathogenic diseases. Submissions that apply novel genomics analyses, manipulative experiments, or comparative methods across phylogenetically diverse coral taxa from the Asia-Pacific region are especially encouraged. We expect that this session will draw the attention of conference attendees that are broadly interested in coral symbiosis and microbial interactions, coral disease mitigation and intervention strategies, and adaptive restoration methods that leverage host immune traits and microbial symbioses to enhance ecological resilience.

Theme: Ecosystem Connectivity

Atsushi Fujimura, University of Guam, USA

Satoshi Mitarai, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Alex Wyatt, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

Coral reef ecosystems are influenced by various oceanic processes. Physical environmental factors such as large temperature fluctuations and ocean currents influence reef dynamics and ecosystems. As a myriad of studies have shown, rapid temperature change can cause mass coral bleaching and increase susceptibility to other diseases. It is known that upwelling and internal waves can provide cold water to reduce the thermal stress on corals. High water flow also mitigates bleaching by enhancing the mass transfer rate of harmful reactive oxygen species. Ocean currents in and between reef systems largely control larval transport, dispersion, recruitment, and settlement, shaping population connectivity. Yet, biological factors including characteristics of larvae and benthic habitat conditions cannot be ignored. Moreover, local-scale stress such as sedimentation and nutrient imbalances in coastal areas can cause additional stress on coral reef ecosystems. Therefore, understanding multiple phenomena in coral reefs requires interdisciplinary research incorporating physical, biological, chemical, and anthropogenic components. We invite studies utilizing modeling (numerical, statistical, conceptual), in-situ observations, remote sensing, laboratory investigations, as well as novel theories and methodologies. Topics include but are not limited to: larval transport and connectivity, coastal dynamics, spatial/temporal temperature variability, natural/anthropogenic disturbances, and biophysical studies using population data.

Jing Hui Ong, National University of Singapore, Singapore

David Combosch, University of Guam, United States of America

Sarah Lemer, University of Guam, United States of America

Coral reefs are increasingly under threat as the climate crisis worsens and anthropogenic activities intensify. The understanding of how and why allele and genotype frequencies change within and between populations through space and time is needed to shed light on the basis for genetic variation in resilience to chronic stressors, recovery from disturbance, and adaptive evolutionary responses. It also provides insights into patterns of connectivity and isolation, which are crucial for identifying populations that require conservation attention. This session will feature themes addressing consequences of population dynamics over ecological and evolutionary time scales, multidisciplinary approaches that incorporate oceanography and geography to elucidate patterns of gene flow, the application of genetic connectivity data in management and conservation, and other relevant topics.

Samantha Lai, National Parks Board, Singapore

Yan Xiang Ow, St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, Singapore

Pimchanok Buapet, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand

Jillian Ooi, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia

Serina Rahman, Southeast Asian Studies Department, National University of Singapore

Seagrass meadows occur throughout the Asia-Pacific region and provide a myriad of ecosystem services, including provisioning, regulating, support and cultural services. They are often closely connected to other coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, and the health of one habitat is often linked to the other. It is imperative that we better understand how to conserve seagrass meadows to ensure the long-term resilience of our coastal ecosystems, particularly in light of our changing climate. This session invites abstracts on themes important for realising the conservation of seagrass meadows, such as: a) Ecological responses to environmental change related to climate and/or human impacts; b) Approaches and practices for conservation and restoration; and c) Ecosystem functions and services

Theme: Marginal Reef Environments

Patrick Cabaitan, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Michel Pichon, Museum of Tropical Queensland, Australia

Frederic Sinniger, University of the Ryukyus, Japan

Alex Wyatt, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs) remain poorly known in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet, given the species richness of the area, they are expected to harbour a significant, albeit largely hidden, potential for biodiversity and ensuing ecosystem functions. In this session, we will discuss the role of key and sometimes little-known drivers acting in MCEs, including geological, oceanographic, and biological factors. This session will be multidisciplinary and we welcome a broad range of contributions that address the hitherto unrecognized aspects of the biodiversity, community structure, zonation, and ecological processes at play in MCEs and their contribution to the overall resilience of coral reef ecosystems.

Nicola Browne, Curtin University, Australia

Verena Schoepf, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Riccardo Rodolfo, IRD, Université de la Réunion, CNRS, IFREMER, Université de Nouvelle-Calédonie, Nouméa, France

Emma Camp, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Christopher Cornwall, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

The worldwide decline of coral reefs has renewed interest in coral communities at the edge of environmental limits because they have the potential to serve as resilience hotspots and climate change refugia. These coral communities are commonly referred to as marginal or extreme reefs, with many perceived to be the “poor cousins” of ”normal” reefs. Yet many of these reefs are characterised by high coral cover, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and may therefore, provide critical insights into how coral reefs might function under suboptimal environmental conditions, including future climate scenarios. Despite the potential management and conservation value of marginal and extreme reefs, they remain comparatively understudied. This theme aims to bring together researchers in the Asia-Pacific region working on marginal and/or extreme reefs (e.g. high latitude reefs, turbid and mesophotic reefs, urban reefs, mangrove lagoons, upwelling influenced reefs, high-temperature reefs, high CO2 seep reefs, macrotidal reefs) in an effort to highlight new research and form new collaborations that exchange data and knowledge, and identify important knowledge gaps. In doing so, improve our understanding of these potentially critical reef systems, and the role that they could play in facilitating future coral reef survival.

Willem Renema, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands

Kyle Morgan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Elsa Girard, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands

A large proportion of the reefs in the Coral Triangle (CT) grow in turbid water habitats that are heavily influenced by terrestrial runoff, often referred to as marginal conditions for coral reefs. These land-sourced impacts can include continuous or episodic terrigenous sediment input, fluctuating salinity, and reduced water quality through increased nutrient and pollutant delivery. In present-day CT, high coral cover and high abundance of coral recruits suggest that, despite the presence of large human populations, turbid reefs have the capacity to withstand environmental pressures and may act as climate-change refuges that protect corals from the harmful interaction between high sea-surface temperatures and high irradiance. Analyses of fossil data show that reefs living in turbid habitats played an important role in the origins and maintenance of this global biodiversity hotspot. In this session we aim to bring together (palaeo)ecologists, ecosystems modellers, palaeontologists and zoologists, to provide an overview of the opportunities and challenges of turbid reefs in Southeast Asia.

Theme: Responses to Environmental Change

Davide Seveso, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Enrico Montalbetti, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Yohan Didier Louis, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy

Coral reefs supply a wide range of ecosystem services, but, at the same time, they are increasingly affected by the climate change and related factors, which are leading to an increase in coral bleaching events and extensive degradation worldwide. In an ecosystem subjected to multiple biotic and abiotic stressors, such as thermal stresses, pollution, diseases and anthropogenic pressures, it is imperative to better elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the tolerance and acclimation to environmental changes. Corals and other benthic organisms have developed diverse mechanisms to withstand environmental stressors, such as physiological compensations, cellular acclimatory pathways and molecular mechanisms for tolerance. In particular, since the earliest steps of an organism’s response to any environmental stress occur at the cellular level, useful diagnostic tools to assess the health status are molecular and cellular stress biomarkers, such as proteins, genes, enzymes, cellular pathways, metabolites, that reflect changes in the cellular structural integrity and in the cellular functional performance. This session host studies focused on the cellular and molecular processes involved in the stress response and adaptation to short or long-term biotic and abiotic stresses in corals and other coral reef-related benthic organisms. Works on omics or other cellular and physiological protection mechanisms concerning mitigation strategies, performed both in the field or in controlled aquaria systems are welcomed.

Isis Guibert, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Mei Lin Neo, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Monica Medina, Pennsylvania State University, United States of America

The resilience of coral reefs is determined by the maintenance of key functions and processes in the face of natural and anthropogenic disturbances by resisting to and then recovering or adapting to change. This session focuses on responses to disturbances by non-coral models, including the use of sediments and seawater, to examine coral reef resilience via ecological and molecular approaches.

Beverly Goh, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Lik Tong Tan, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Stress responses of coral reef-associated organisms to changes in the environment have been well documented. There is however, less understanding of how ecotoxicity biomarkers are expressed in these organisms in the face of environmental change. Similarly, responses of reef organisms under stress may take the form of the production of particular novel bioactive compounds as a protective mechanism. This session proposes to explore research on the two responses of ecotoxicology and bioactivity in reef systems under stress from global climate and environmental change. Insights from these studies may allow better management of reef ecosystems under current predicted climate change scenarios.

Jennifer Donelson, James Cook University, Australia

Shannon McMahon, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Celia Schunter, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Timothy Ravasi, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Global and localised environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented rate in the world’s oceans. For many species these environmental changes are beyond what has historically been experienced and beyond the optimal conditions for species and populations. This is especially true for coral reef organisms for which global and local human induced change is resulting in negative impacts to performance, survival, and population sustainability of reefs. This invokes the question of whether coral reef species have the capacity to cope with environmental change through processes such as phenotypic plasticity and/or adaptation. This symposium will bring together scientists investigating the ability of coral reef organisms to respond to environmental change through non-genetic and genetic processes. There is still much to discover on the capacity of reef organisms to respond to environmental change, and the physiological, ecological, and molecular mechanisms that underpin the response. This symposium will bring a timely discussion and synthesis of the current state of knowledge on the capacity for coral reefs to cope with anthropogenic change.

Sylvain Agostini, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Haruko Kurihara, University of the Ryukyus, Japan

Timothy Ravasi, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Anthropogenic activities are leading to climate change at an unprecedented rate and these anomalies in climate will certainly lead to severe consequences to the marine environment. There is evidence that increased CO2 levels will lead to severe disruption of key processes such as calcification, development during larval stages, predator and prey recognition, among others. Laboratory experiments show that future CO2 and temperature levels can affect a variety of physiological and behavioral traits and processes of coral reef organisms, but underlying mechanisms show considerable variation among species, and ecosystems effects remain uncertain. Natural analogues of future climate provide a unique opportunity to investigate the fundamental responses and potential adaptation of coral reef organisms to long-term exposure to elevated CO2, temperature, salinity and hypoxia. Understanding how marine species cope with environmental shifts is imperative to projecting their fates in a changing planet. This session will address research performed on natural analogues of climate in understanding the future of coral reefs and will assemble cross-disciplinary studies from a variety of taxa, biological scales.

Fernando Siringan, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippinesh

Maria Vanessa Baria-Rodriguez, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Even though the phenomenon of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has been recognized even in ancient times, methods to detect, measure, and characterize discharge and physico-chemistry has only been established in the past few decades. Documentation and understanding of its effects on the ecosystem is benefitting from increased attention to the phenomenon. In this session, the nature of SGD and its influence on coral reefs and contiguous environments will be explored.

Theme: Threats and Impacts

Simone Montano, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Coral diseases represent one of the most serious threats to reef ecosystems. The disease outbreak currently impacting Florida’s Reef Tract exemplifies how devastating disease can be for corals. Despite the increasing number of studies reporting on diseases affecting corals and other marine taxa worldwide, the effort to investigate Indo-Pacific coral diseases has been, until now, disproportionately low, especially considering that the Indo-Pacific hosts 91% of the world’s coral reefs. This session aims to improve our knowledge about this threats through studies that: i) assess the impacts of coral diseases from an ecology point of view; ii) characterize the pathologies using a multidisciplinary approach; iii) develop new investigative techniques to assess coral health; and iv) propose new mitigation tools to slow down their impacts.

Jenny Fong, Griffith University, Australia

Muhammad Reza Cordova, National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia

Shu Qin Sam, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Marine plastic litter is increasingly recognized as an important stressor in coral reef ecosystems, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where it is considered as a hotspot of plastic pollution. Due to its high persistence and potential toxicity, plastic poses a significant threat to marine organisms and ecosystems. This session invites researchers to share their works on marine litter (macro- and microplastics) conducted on coral reefs and reef organisms. Topics of interests include 1) quantification and characterisation of plastic litter on coral reefs, including the transboundary movements of plastics across seas, habitats, and environmental matrices, 2) interactions between plastics and marine organisms, 3) impacts of macro- and microplastics on reef organisms and ecosystems, 4) microbiome associated with marine plastic litter (i.e., plastisphere), and 5) innovative solutions and initiatives to tackle marine litter pollution.

Theme: Interventions for Reef Recovery

Tries Razak, IPB University, Indonesia

Lalita Putchim, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Thailand

Jennie Lee, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia

Affendi Yang Amri, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia

Jani Tanzil, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Over the past three decades, there has been an accumulation of wealth in practical knowledge regarding reef restoration, with a staggering number of projects and outplanted coral fragments in Asia-Pacific. In order to increase success of restoration efforts in the long-term and as a region, there needs to be improvements in reef restoration best practices in general. This includes the breaking down of barriers to knowledge access and sharing, establishing appropriate restoration objectives and monitoring, and developing follow-up strategies to facilitate the sustainability (environmental, financial, social) and continuity of restoration efforts. This session aims to share results of reef restoration efforts around the Asia-Pacific (in particular Southeast Asia) and, through a town hall, discuss lessons learnt and strategies for coordinating knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts for reef restoration in the region. As participatory public engagement through training of non-scientists (i.e. public citizen scientists) are also increasingly being deployed in order to aid in expansion of reef restoration efforts and as a way to alleviate manpower costs of restoration projects, contributions that share lessons learnt from citizen science and training programmes will also be featured.

James Guest, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Kate Quigley, Minderoo Foundation, Australia

Suchana Chavanich, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Maria Vanessa Baria-Rodriguez, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Lindsey Deignan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Efforts to manage coral reefs have focused on local management, however, well managed reefs are vulnerable to climate change disturbances. There is now increased interest in restoring damaged areas and actively assisting corals to adapt to anticipated environmental conditions via assisted evolution. Assisted evolution involves deliberate genetic, epigenetic and microbiome changes to the coral holobiont. Many of the proposed approaches are being tested under laboratory conditions. The most promising of these would be combined with field-based ecological restoration to introduce more resilient corals onto vulnerable reefs. For assisted evolution to be of benefit, corals must be outplanted to reefs in sufficiently large numbers and in a cost-effective way. Furthermore, they must survive until reproductive maturity and pass any beneficial traits to their offspring. Clearly, huge challenges remain before assisted evolution can be successfully implemented as a conservation method. The purpose of this session is to bring together the most up to date and cutting-edge research in restorative assisted evolution. These may include, but are not limited to, selective breeding, assisted gene flow, acclimatisation, coral probiotics and evolution of coral algal symbionts. Studies that test the feasibility of combining assisted evolution techniques with active restoration are of particular interest.

Peter Harrison, Southern Cross University, Australia

Dexter dela Cruz, Southern Cross University, Australia

Maria Vanessa Baria-Rodriguez, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Patrick Cabaitan, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Cecilia Conaco, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

The loss of ecosystem-engineering reef-building corals and essential reef fish habitats is a critical issue underpinning food security, biodiversity, and ecosystem services that directly support many coastal communities. This growing problem of the loss of corals requires larger-scale interventions and cutting-edge technologies to slow the rates of degradation and rapidly restore breeding corals. Research that addresses loss of corals is highly relevant to the Asia-Pacific Region, where some of the largest coral reef areas are found but are increasingly threatened by chronic human impacts interacting with climate change. Hence, coral restoration efforts are increasingly relevant and necessary now and in future. The proposed session will bring together studies on different coral restoration interventions involving novel technologies and multi-disciplinary approaches for restoring reef areas. Research on the production of coral materials for restoration that are resilient and adaptive to current and future ocean scenarios such as assisted evolution, selective breeding, nutrients and probiotics enhancement, and symbiont culture and manipulation will be included. Furthermore, more holistic studies on social and political aspects and outcomes of coral restoration efforts will be featured.

Theme: Ecological Engineering

Chin Soon Lionel Ng, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Shu Qin Sam, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Tai Chong Toh, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Many of the world’s coasts have been extensively urbanised and replaced by artificial structures such as coastal defences, leading to the destruction and degradation of large tracts of natural habitats such as tropical coral reefs. While reef organisms can recruit and establish on the artificial structures, there remains an urgent need to explore how these structures and relatedly, man-made habitats, can be creatively designed and effectively deployed to boost reef recovery and resilience in urbanised seas. As coral reefs are common assets, it is also important to examine how these actions can affect local stakeholders. This session provides a platform to discuss strategies on enhancing the biological, ecological and sociocultural value of artificial structures and man-made habitats in urbanised reef systems. We invite researchers to share their lessons learnt in enhancing reef resilience and biodiversity in these contexts, as well as innovative strategies used in the restoration of urban reefs.

Daisuke Taira, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Jeffrey Low, National Parks Board, Singapore

Zeehan Jaafar, National University of Singapore, Singapore

The use of artificial structures and eco-engineering concepts for reef restoration and shoreline modifications have expanded in recent years, underpinning their importance as mitigation strategies for the anthropogenic impacts to coral reef ecosystems. While the primary aim of such artificial structures is to promote recruitment of stony corals and other sessile reef-related organisms, such interventions also support reef-associated fishes for biodiversity conservation and management. This session serves as a platform to share emerging data on the impacts of rapid coastal modification on reef fishes, and the existing active interventions for fish diversity enhancement. This session will incorporate topics relating to fish biology, ecology and behaviour, on artificial structures and along modified coastlines, and aims to identify knowledge gaps to improve the information available for conservation and management of both natural and artificial systems.

Theme: Emerging Technologies

Jani Tanzil, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Patrick Martin, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Mandar Chitre, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Teong Beng Koay, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Seng Keat Ooi, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Hari Vishnu, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Marine environment sensing and survey technologies are needed to better monitoring and assessment of coral reefs. Effective monitoring provides the foundation for interpreting ecological responses to environmental changes, and enables forward planning of management and mitigation strategies. However, monetary and time constraints often limit monitoring scope and localities. This session aims to explore methods and technologies that can help improve cost-effectiveness of observing the marine environment in ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. Contributions that present advancements to coral reef survey methods, environment monitoring technologies (e.g. marine sensors, remote sensing, autonomous underwater vehicles, marine robotics for surveys, novel analytical methods and calibrations) and approaches to better integrate spatio-temporal data (e.g. modelling, AI/machine learning, data sharing platforms etc) will be featured.

Guoxin Cui, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

Nils Rädecker, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

The endosymbiotic relationship between corals and photosynthetic algae is the cornerstone of coral reef ecosystems. Yet ongoing climate change is imposing serious stress on this relationship and has resulted in coral reef degradation on a global scale. Extensive efforts have been devoted to understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the establishment and maintenance of coral-algae symbiosis and its breakdown under stress conditions. The continuous advance of modern sequencing technologies, the widespread application of microscopic techniques, and the development of novel proteomic and metabolomic methods have given rise to intriguing models and hypotheses of how the symbiosis works from molecular to holobiont scales. This session will showcase these novel insights and attempt to summarize the progress in developing a functional understanding of the symbiosis that would benefit future studies on stress mitigation and coral reef conservation.

Elena Bollati, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Cesar Pacherres, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Michael Kühl, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Tropical corals are holobionts, formed from the symbiotic union of corals with microbial partners including single-celled algae, bacteria, viruses and more. Each member of the symbiosis performs a set of physiological processes, and interacts with the other members to give rise to the overall physiology of the holobiont. These processes ultimately determine how the holobiont interacts with its environment, and are thus a key component of coral resilience to environmental change. Many approaches to characterize holobiont physiology and composition have focused so far on the colony scale. Yet, each colony and even each polyp is a mosaic of physico-chemical microenvironments, where different physiological process and microbial interactions take place. We are now beginning to characterize these microenvironments and resolve some of these processes below the colony scale. New techniques have emerged that allow us not only to localize different players in the holobiont, but also to characterize their function, and visualize microscale dynamics in flow, nutrients and energy with high resolution. This session aims to bring together different approaches to holobiont physiology at the microscale, to keep building a picture of the roles played by each member in the different microenvironments found within colonies and their response to anthropogenic change.

Theme: Integrated Management and Solutions

Tadashi Kimura, Palau International Coral Reef Center, Palau

Yimnang Golbuu, Palau International Coral Reef Center, Palau

Geraldine Rengiil, Palau International Coral Reef Center, Palau

Akira Shintani, Palau International Coral Reef Center, Palau

To utilize scientific information for management, we should ideally involve multiple stakeholders into the management processes for protecting coastal ecosystems. We, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), are working on enhancing integrated management of coastal ecosystems in Palau for strengthening their resilience to climate change, focusing on mangrove management and reduction of soil run-off/sedimentation with the multiple stakeholders of central governments and agencies, state governments, communities and NGOs supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This session will enable scientists and managers to share our respective experiences, challenges and approaches of integrated management of coastal ecosystems.

Hollie Booth, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Andrew Chin, James Cook University, Australia

Christina Choy, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore,

As apex and meso predators, sharks and rays play important ecological roles in coral reef communities. They balance food webs and strengthen reefs’ resilience to disturbances. They also have significant tourism value and provide sources of food for coastal communities. Yet they are disappearing from reefs at an alarming rate, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, which is home to two of the world’s largest shark fishing nations, as well as key trade and consumption hubs. Sustainable shark and ray fisheries are therefore essential to keeping reefs healthy and securing livelihoods for millions of people. These strategies will need to be informed by interdisciplinary research on their ecologies, as well as the anthropogenic threats they face. Speakers will share on the ecological roles of sharks and rays on reefs, their statuses in the Asia-Pacific, and efforts to mitigate threats so that reefs and coastal communities can flourish. This session will foster new inter-disciplinary collaborations for example on using technologies to monitor and track them in reefs which provide information that is crucial but often lacking when designing strategies, and on using social and behavioural sciences to increase support of local communities, and ensure success of shark and ray conservation initiatives.

Porfirio Alino, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, The Philippines

Karenne Tun, National Parks Board, Singapore

Reniel Cabral, James Cook University, Australia

Jeffrey Low, National Parks Board, Singapore

The ocean is a major source of solutions to food, livelihoods, climate, and biodiversity challenges. To protect marine biodiversity and its services, nations pledged to place 10% of their exclusive economic zones in fully protected marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020 as part of their commitments to the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. Furthermore, the CBD draft commitment post-2020 global biodiversity framework recommends the protection of 30% of the ocean in fully or highly protected MPAs by 2030. Given various national, regional, and global commitments to protect and improve marine biodiversity and its services, it is imperative that nations within Asia and the Pacific coordinate their efforts. The shared resources, threats, and aspirations among the Asia-Pacific nations further motivate coordination. This session will showcase efforts to coordinate national/regional conservation targets, scaling up MPA networks, projections and quantifications of MPA benefits and impacts, improving MPA design and management, and efforts that quantify MPA co-benefits, particularly those that demonstrate how MPAs can be designed to align conservation with economic benefits. We aim to share science, experiences, and efforts among Asia and the Pacific nations, and foster collaboration that can motivate effective protection of marine biodiversity and its services.

Dominic Andradi-Brown, World Wildlife Fund, United States of America

Muhammad Erdi Lazuardi, World Wildlife Fund, Indonesia

Rili Djohani, Coral Triangle Center, Indonesia

Marthen Welly, Coral Triangle Center, Indonesia

Estradivari, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research

With declining coral reef health, many nations are actively implementing area-based management approaches to protect and restore biodiversity and increase fisheries sustainability. These management approaches span diverse legal and governance types – and are motivated by ambitious global targets (e.g. 30×30). Area-based management approaches include Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), but also increasingly Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs). Area-based conservation approaches require substantial tailoring to local context which makes science-based design, monitoring, evaluation, and learning essential to inform adaptive management and policy. Given a newly adopted global framework, special attention is also needed to consider the potential contributions of OECMs and their integration into the marine conservation toolbox. This session places heavy emphasis on providing Coral Triangle conservation practitioners with the opportunity to share case studies, voice views, and identify ongoing or future challenges and opportunities to the wider Asia-Pacific coral reef community. Common success factors and pathways to overcome barriers preventing effective MPA and OECM projects will be analyzed. This session will be of great interest to conservation practitioners, conservation policy makers, and academic scientists desiring a holistic overview of how marine area-based conservation projects involving MPAs and OECMs are initiated, implemented, and adaptively managed by conservation practitioners.

Naneng Setiasih, Reef Check Foundation, Indonesia

Karenne Tun, National Parks Board, Singapore

As environmental challenges increase rapidly, there is a need to build a stronger bridge between bottom-up and top-down conservation approaches. There are many community-driven conservation programs in the Asia-Pacific. This session will focus on supporting the community to share experiences in building the resilience of their coastal resources. Presentations will feature work on organizing the community, preserving and enhancing local wisdom, and utilizing community/citizen science to build networks with NGOs, scientific institutions, government, private sectors, and other strategic stakeholders.

Thamasak Yeemin, Marine Science Association of Thailand, Thailand

Wichin Suebpala, Ramkhamhaeng University, Thailand

Coral reef ecosystems are essential resources for tourism development in the Asia-Pacific. They are composed of diverse marine organisms, which are beautiful, attracting many tourists to visit. However, the rapid growth of marine tourism with improper management has severely negative impacts on coral reef ecosystem health and biodiversity. Coral reef ecotourism plays a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem services and sustainability of the coastal tourism sector and the social and economic development of the local communities and nations. The impacts of climate change accelerate concerns that help promote the reduction and offsetting of carbon dioxide emissions. In the tourism sector, carbon-neutral tourism has been promoted, emphasizing reducing and offsetting carbon emissions. This session will assess biomass and carbon stored in seagrass, algae, and sediment in the coral reef ecosystems. Scientists and managers working in the Asia-Pacific countries are invited to present their current knowledge from scientific research, monitoring, management, and conservation, focusing on ecotourism and carbon-neutral destinations. Lessons learned from this region, including a capacity enhancement for monitoring and research, community-based management, and carbon-neutral tourism, will be highlighted.

Theresa Su, St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, Singapore

Shu Qin Sam, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Tai Chong Toh, Tropical Marine Science Institute, Singapore

Lynette Ying, National University of Singapore, Singapore

There is a wealth of anecdotal and scientific information to be shared about the coral reef ecosystem among scientists and non-scientists alike. The casual exchange of knowledge related to coral reefs and its associated communities allow for an open forum where we can learn from one another, which may change how we percieve as effective education and outreach. With increasing pressures from climate change and anthropogenic impacts, effective communication to enhance conservation, management and sensitive use of the ecosystem is paramount. To protect reefs in a timely manner, communication can no longer be a by-product of research or an afterthought. Outreach and education should be incorporated at all levels, from best practices to penetrating formal curricula to complement efforts in coral reef conservation by the scientific community and policy makers. In this session, we welcome lessons learned from public outreach and awareness activities, and the use of effective communication to engage and empower various stakeholders in coral reef conservation. We also welcome a dynamic sharing of platforms, tools and innovative approaches used in the communication, outreach and education of coral reef related matters.