Introduction: Program 1

Program 1: People and Ecosystems

Program Leaders: Professor Terry Hughes & Professor Bob Pressey

This program expands the scope of contemporary coral reef research, from a predominantly biological focus to a broader understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.

The key objective is to improve the governance and management of natural systems and to enhance our capacity to sustain both human and natural capital.

Our research examines the economic, social, historical and cultural aspects of resource use and governance, while recognising that there is no simple, single solution to the wicked problem of preserving reefs while promoting development.

This inter-disciplinary program is being conducted on a global scale with study areas spread over 25 countries across the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean.


Social Adaptation, Resilience and Transformation – Examines the resilience and adaptive capacity of coral reef dependent societies across the tropic to inevitable change, particularly climate change and overfishing.

Integrated Land-Sea Planning – A primary goal is developing a new conceptual framework for planning human activities in coastal areas and seascapes, particularly in Australia, the Coral Triangle, Fiji and India.

Fish, Fishers and Fisheries – Aims to develop theory and test new models for understanding the dynamics of coupled ecological and social systems, where one or both components exhibit threshold dynamics.


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