Established in 1971, researchers at the CRIOBE have spent nearly 50 years studying the coral reef ecosystem, with a specific focus on the coral reefs of Moorea in French Polynesia.

In 2019 the CRIOBE (USR 3278) embarked upon a new 5-year project that seeks to identify innovative solutions to the problems facing today’s coral reefs. Warming temperatures, acidification of our oceans, and increased pressure from humans are all placing stress on our coral reefs to not only continue to deliver the many services they provide, but which are also threatening their very survival. Through advances in science, management practices and involvement in the development of new policy, the CRIOBE is one of France’s most important and influential laboratories for the study and preservation of coral reefs.

The objective of the CRIOBE’s Coral Reefs of Tomorrow project is to understand which organisms, phenotypes, genotypes, molecules and social strategies are best adapted to global change, and to the future environment in which coral reefs will reside. Through this increased understanding, we will be able to propose meaningful solutions to protect coral reef ecosystems and the services they provide to hundreds of millions of people today, tomorrow, and for many years to come.

The Coral Reefs of Tomorrow project is structured around 4 strategic programs.

P1. Chemical Interactions and Mediation
Coordinator: Maggy Nugues, EPHE
Co-coordinator: Isabelle Bonnard, UPVD
Technical platforms: Bio2Mar, Chemistry, Histology, Molecular Biology, Optics

Program 1 is devoted to the study of chemical interactions and communication between coral reef organisms in order to better understand the role that chemicals and odor play in the structure and function of coral reefs, as well as the impact of environmental changes on these chemical processes.

Coral reefs are hotspots for biodiversity, with many species interacting with each other and with their physical environment. These interactions are mainly based on molecular exchanges. The search for shelter, security, food and a breeding partner is subject to complex chemical interactions and highlights the role that chemistry plays in the structure and functioning of reef ecosystems.

For coral reefs, the study of biomolecules and their role in biological interactions is still in its infancy. The concepts of "essential molecules" and the olfactory or "scent landscape" are relatively new, but recent advances in analytical chemistry and metabolomics allow us to fill gaps in knowledge.

Other CRIOBE researchers implicated in the program

B. Banaigs, C. Bertrand, L. Hédouin, N. Inguimbert, D. Lecchini, S. Mills, P. Sasal, M.V. Salvia, N. Tapissier-Bontemps

Laetitia Hédouin, CNRS
Co-coordinators: Suzanne Mills, EPHE and Benoît Pujol, CNRS
Technical Platforms: Histology, Molecular Biology, Optics, Bio2Mar

Program 2 aims to describe, understand and anticipate the changes that reef organisms will face in the coming years. Lessons learned from this research will provide a sound scientific basis from which conservation management, restoration and coastal planning decisions can be made.

Humans have a profound impact on our planet. Coral reefs are at the forefront of this change. There is no longer any doubt that by the end of this century, coral reefs will be very different from those that exist today. Even if we now reduce CO2 emissions, rapid climate change is already underway, with serious consequences for coral reefs. Today, it is crucial to monitor the fate of species, identify the biological mechanisms that modify their diversity and assess the adaptive capacity of reef organisms. The frequency, intensity and diversity of today's environmental changes pose a direct threat to the survival of reef organisms.

However, CO2 emissions are not the only driver of environmental change: intense coastal development has transformed coastlines and is becoming a particular concern for coral reefs.

Other CRIOBE researchers implicated in the program
B. Banaigs, R. Beldade, C. Bertrand, N. Tapissier-Bontemps,
I. Bonnard, B. Lapeyre, M. Nugues, S. Planes, M.V. Salvia

Coordinator: Valeriano Parravicini, EPHE
Co-coordinator: Pierre Sasal, CNRS
Technical platforms: SO CORAIL, Chemistry, Molecular Biology, Sclerochronology

The objective of Program 3 is to conduct a high-resolution study at local and global scales, to better understand the factors that enable coral reefs to provide vital services to humans, to assess their vulnerability to anthropogenic and climatic pressures, and to study their resilience.

500 million people depend on the services provided by coral reefs for food, income, coastal protection and cultural identity. ‘Supporting services’, such as nutrient recycling, and 'regulating services', such as climate regulation, are essential processes for ecosystem functioning. Other services, such as ‘provisioning services’ (e.g. food supply) or ‘cultural services’ (e.g. aesthetic value), are services that provide direct benefits to humans. In the face of increasing anthropogenic and climatic pressures, the capacity of coral ecosystems to provide these vital services is under threat. Today, it is therefore essential to understand the drivers behind the many processes and services provided by coral reefs, as well as their vulnerability to human and climatic pressures and their resilience to disturbance. Currently, our ability to quantify ecological processes and to understand the structure of complex systems is limited.

Other CRIOBE researchers implicated in the program

B. Banaigs, J. Claudet, E. Clua, L. Hédouin, D. Lecchini, S. Mills, M. Nugues, S. Planes

P4. Management of Social-Ecological Systems - from Science to Action
Coordinator: Joachim Claudet, CNRS
Co-coordinator: Eric Clua, EPHE
Technical platforms: SO CORAIL, Diving, Biology, Surveys

Program 4 focuses on improving our understanding of the key drivers and most influential internal linkages within the social-ecological coral reef systems in order to effectively inform decision-making.

People derive many benefits from coral reef ecosystems, including food, coastal protection, income and cultural identity. As a result, humans directly or indirectly modify coral reefs and are therefore important drivers of ecosystem change. The intensification of human activities in many parts of the world, coupled with other disturbances such as extreme weather events and outbreaks of coral predators, has raised increasing concerns about the ability of natural systems to continue to provide the services on which people depend. This has led to a growing awareness that effective management of human activities is not only about conserving biodiversity, but is the foundation for maintaining food security, community well-being and sustainable development.

Effective management that balances the use of natural resources and the conservation of ecosystems is a major challenge, the solution to which requires a new set of robust and innovative tools.

Other CRIOBE researchers implicated in the program

T. Bambridge, V. Parravicini, N. Pascal, S. Planes, P. Sasal