The next 10 years are a critical window of opportunity for action to protect and restore ocean health. Governments, NGOs, researchers, philanthropists, the private sector, and communities have come together to set ambitious global goals and plans of action to safeguard and restore ocean health and associated ecosystem services. These include, for example, the 30 by 30 initiative to protect 30% of the world’s oceans, lands, and freshwaters by 2030, and the recognition that ecosystem restoration is essential to support resilience and adaptation. However, effective implementation of marine habitat restoration, specifically coral reef restoration, require guidance to inform if, when, and where, investing in restoration is appropriate.
Here, we review the role of coral reef restoration in the context of climate change and global 30 by 30 targets arguing that while restoration should not be used as a silver bullet in the face of global declines, it has an important role to play to deliver social and ecological goals. By carefully reviewing current limitations barriers and opportunities, we provide avenues for improving the effectiveness of coral reef restoration and assist evidence-based investment and decision-making. These include a list of best practices for coral reef restoration, as well as targeted guidance on how to overcome policy barriers, build capacity, and support investments and research and development. We conclude with specific recommendations for governments, funders, conservation organizations, and stakeholders on how to meet 30 by 30 targets through promoting the persistence, survival, and where necessary the restoration of tropical coral reefs to secure the valuable ecosystem services that they provide.