Scaling up the global reef restoration activity: avoiding ecological imperialism and ongoing colonialism

Gibbs, Mark T., Gibbs, Bridget L., Newlands, Maxine, and Ivey, Jordan (2021) Scaling up the global reef restoration activity: avoiding ecological imperialism and ongoing colonialism. PLoS ONE, 16 (5). e0250870.

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The health and condition of the world’s reefs are in steep decline. This has triggered the development of fledgling micro-scale coral reef restoration projects along many reef coastlines. However, it is increasingly recognised that the scale and productivity of micro-scale coral gardening projects will be insufficient to meet the growing global threats to reefs. More recently, efforts to develop and implement restoration techniques for application at regional scales have been pursued by research organisations. Coral reefs are mostly located in the unindustrialised world. Yet, most of the funding, and scientific and engineering method development for larger-scale methods will likely be sourced and created in the industrialised world. Therefore, the development of the emerging at-scale global reef restoration sector will inevitably involve the transfer of methods, approaches, finances, labour and skills from the industrialised world to the unindustrialised world. This opens the door to the industrialised world negatively impacting the unindustrialised world and, in some cases, First Nations peoples. In Western scientific parlance, ecological imperialism occurs when people from industrialised nations seek to recreate environments and ecosystems in unindustrialised nations that are familiar and comfortable to them. How a coral reef ’should’ look depends on one’s background and perspective. While predominately Western scientific approaches provide guidance on the ecological principles for reef restoration, these methods might not be applicable in every scenario in unindustrialised nations. Imposing such views on Indigenous coastal communities without the local technical and leadership resources to scale-up restoration of their reefs can lead to unwanted consequences. The objective of this paper is to introduce this real and emerging risk into the broader reef restoration discussion.

Item ID: 67931
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: ecological imperialism; restoration; barrier reef
Copyright Information: © 2021 Gibbs et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: Australian Government (AG), Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF)
Projects and Grants: GBRF Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 06:18
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440704 Environment policy @ 50%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430313 History of empires, imperialism and colonialism @ 20%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410405 Environmental rehabilitation and restoration @ 30%
SEO Codes: 21 INDIGENOUS > 2104 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture > 210404 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge @ 60%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1902 Environmental policy, legislation and standards > 190208 Rights to environmental and natural resources (excl. water allocation) @ 40%
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