Coral Refugia

Photo © Paul Selvaggio

These coral climate refugia models aim to guide investments in coral restoration and conservation to the reefs most likely to survive the impacts of climate change based on reef locations, historical and future thermal conditions, hurricane impacts, and coral larval connectivity.

All coral reefs in the region were ranked in terms of their ability to survive the impacts of climate change through an optimization model using 5 input data layers:

  1. Reef locations (Schill et al. 2021)

  2. Historical thermal conditions (Dixon et al. 2022)

  3. Future thermal conditions (Dixon et al. 2022)

  4. Hurricane Impacts (Knapp et al. 2018)

  5. Larval connectivity (Schill et al. 2015)


The model was completed regionally and nationally. The regional model should be used for regional planning, while decisions at the country-level should utilize the national models.


Reference for these maps:

Chollett, I., Escovar-Fadul, X., Schill, S. R., Croquer, A., Dixon, A. M., Beger, M., Shaver, E., Pietsch McNulty, V., & Wolff, N. H. (2022). Planning for resilience: Incorporating scenario and model uncertainty and trade-offs when prioritizing management of climate refugia. Global Change Biology, 00, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16167


Case Study:

Bahamas Reefs Project

The regional models for The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos is currently being used to inform the selection of target sites for coral reef insurance projects through an extensive stakeholder consultation process.

The top 25% of coral climate refugia were selected within 4 specific Bahamian islands: Abaco, Andros, Exuma, and Grand Bahama, and grouped into natural clusters using the 'aggregate polygons' function in ArcGIS. The list of potential sites is being narrowed iteratively through stakeholder consultation using criteria such as protection status, presence of local NGOs, government interest, accessibility, and presence of local threats such as pollution or coastal development.

Case Study: Coral Carib (Cuba, DR, Haiti, and Jamaica)

The national-level models in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica were used to select target sites for coral restoration through an extensive stakeholder consultation process.

The top 25% of coral climate refugia were selected in each country and grouped into natural clusters using the 'aggregate polygons' function in ArcGIS. The list of potential sites was narrowed iteratively through stakeholder consultation using criteria such as protection status, presence of local NGOs, government interest, accessibility, and presence of local threats such as pollution or coastal development.

One final site was selected in each country to be targeted by The Nature Conservancy and partners for restoration and threat abatement activities over the next few years. Explore these sites and the regional model in the web map below.