Untapped policy avenues to protect coral reef ecosystems

Rachel R. Carlson, Shawna A. Foo, John H.R. Burns, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Coral reefs are experiencing severe decline, and urgent action is required at local and global scales to curb ecosystem loss. Establishing new regulations to protect corals, however, can be time consuming and costly, and it is therefore necessary to leverage existing legal instruments, such as policies originally designed to address terrestrial rather than marine activities, to prevent coral reef degradation. Focusing on the United States, but drawing on successful examples worldwide, we present actionable pathways to increase coral protections under legislation that was originally designed to advance clean freshwater, safe drinking water, and emergency management. We identify specific legal policies and procedures (e.g., industrial permit limits, nonpoint source management incentives, and floodplain restoration programs) that can curb coral reef pollution and can be extended to other countries with similar regulations in place. Coral reef practitioners should consider a broad array of currently underused, actionable, and intersecting environmental policies that can be applied to mitigate coral stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2117562119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 6 2022


  • coast
  • coral
  • environmental policy
  • pollution
  • runoff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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