Environmental Initiatives



Tim McClanahan is a Senior Conservation Zoologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he has worked for the past 15 years. He is interested in the interdisciplinary field of ecology, fisheries and the sustainable management of coral reefs, but also enjoys crossing sub-disciplines in order to solve broader conservation science issues.

Consequently, in the past 20 years his research has evolved from an early focus on prioritizing the effects that humans have on coral reefs and the role that marine protected areas play in conserving biological diversity and ecological processes, to developing theoretical and simulation models of coral reefs that will help predict and suggest alternatives to reduce detrimental effects, to developing practical means to restore degraded reefs through manipulation of the food web and management.

Most recently McClanahan is studying the potential interaction between global climate change and coral reef management. He has published 85 peer-reviewed journal articles, 17 book chapters, four edited books (2 are in press) and 37 other publications including popular articles, editorials and book reviews. The International Scientific Information Institute (ISI) reported that he has been the second most productive and cited coral reef scientist over the past 10 years. This work has received international attention and, in 1996, he was awarded the Pew Scholars in the Environment Award for this research and conservation efforts.

McClanahan has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for the past 15 years with interests in capacity building and applied conservation. For example, he has supervised 24 graduate-level theses from a wide range of colleges and universities and maintained a regional internship program that has intensively trained 17 young recent graduates and government officers from the western Indian Ocean countries in coral reef field methods. This internship program has developed a young cadre of coral reef field scientists using and sharing data from similar field methods and most of these interns have gone on to do graduate studies in coral reef ecology and fisheries.

He has worked to develop the coral reef programs of WCS including coral reef and fisheries programs in Belize, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The Belizean program has maintained a coral reef monitoring and experimentation program since 1994 where the focus has been the interaction between fishing, pollution and climate change.

Work in Indonesia has focused on the role of traditional and national parks effects on biodiversity. McClanahan has also indirectly educated and participated in academic scholarship through a number of books. For example, he edited two completed text books entitled East African Ecosystems and their Conservation (pp. 452, Oxford University Press, 1996) and Coral Reefs of the Indian Ocean: Their Ecology and Conservation (pp. 530, Oxford University Press, 2002).

Two additional books, Food Webs and the Dynamics of Marine Benthic Ecosystems and Fisheries Management: Progress towards Sustainability (eds. McClanahan, T.R. and Castilla, J.C.), are in press. These books review much of the scientific literature on these subjects and are important graduate-level reference and teaching texts. He is also on the editorial boards of a number of leading international journals, namely Marine Ecology Progress Series, Ecosystems, Environmental Conservation and Aquatic Conservation.

McClanahan has played other non-teaching roles in capacity building. For example, in 1997, as part of the International Year of the Reef, he organized a five-day workshop titled Coral Reefs of the Western Indian Ocean. This meeting assembled approximately 50 of the leading investigators and managers of coral reefs in the region to discuss the status and future of coral reef conservation and management. This workshop led to the above-mentioned text and a number of collaborative investigations among participants. In 2005, he organized a regional survey of socioeconomics of fishing communities in the western Indian Ocean, which was preceded by a training course.

Another example of capacity building is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that he instigated and drafted between Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI). This MOU has led to greater collaboration between marine researchers and park managers and resulted in a number of joint programs since it was ratified in 1993. McClanahan also works closely with the Kenyan park service, maintains a coral reef monitoring program and associated database for their marine parks, and developed a publication and meeting series that ensures that managers are aware of the progress of our research and its implications. This is the oldest monitoring program in the Western Indian Ocean with ecosystem-level data collected from 1987.

In 1995, he developed a co-management program between Kenya’s Fisheries Department and traditional fisheries leaders in southern Kenya where he collects data on fish catches and ecology and present these findings to these two groups. This co-management program led to the reduction of seine nets during 2000 in most study sites and reversed the decline of fish catches.

Most recently he is leading a group of investigators to determine the effects of the 1998 ENSO on coral reefs and fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean. This group is in the process of repeating surveys of corals and fish before and after 1998 and completing a meta-analysis of the fish and corals in the region. There are also efforts to develop a regional partnership to monitor coral bleaching and its effects.


Wildlife Conservation Society

Tim McClanahan Website


Ph.D., University of Florida
1990 - Environmental Engineering/Systems Ecology, Florida, USA

Master of Science, University of Florida
1984 - Environmental Engineering/Systems Ecology, Florida, USA

Bachelor of Arts, University of California
1981 - Biology, Santa Cruz, California, USA
The Wildlife Conservation Society
1991-PRESENT - Coral Reef Conservation Project, Senior Conservation Zoologist and Coordinator of Coral Reef Programs, Kenya
Wildlife Conservation Society
1991- PRESENT- Associate Research Ecologist

Friends World College, East African Center
1985- 1988- Faculty Advisor

Present- Editorial Board

School For Field Studies
Program in Wildlife Management, Co-Leader
1996 - Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation

The Pew Scholars in the Environment Award
American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Institute for Biological Sciences

American Society of Naturalists

East African Wildlife Society

Ecological Society of America

International Science for Reef Studies
Fleitmann, D., R. B. Dunbar, M. McCulloch, M. Mudelsee, M. Vuille, T. McClanahan, and C. Andrews. 2007. East African soil erosion recorded in a 300 year old coral colony from Kenya. Geophysical Research Letters 34:L04401, doi:04410.01029/02006GLO028525.

Graham, N., T. R. McClanahan, Y. Letourner, and R. Galzin. 2007. Anthropogenic stressors, inter-specific competition and ENSO effects on a Mauritian coral reef. Environmental Biology of Fish 78:57-69.

Maina, J., V. Venus, and T. R. McClanahan. in press. Modelling susceptibility of coral reefs to environmental stress using remote sensing data and GIS models in the western Indian Ocean. Ecological Modelling.

McClanahan, T. R. 2007. Achieving sustainability in East African coral reefs. Journal of the Marine Science and Environment C5:13-16.

McClanahan, T. R. 2007. Testing for correspondence between coral reef invertebrate diversity and marine park designation on the Masoala Peninsula of eastern Madagascar. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 17:409-419.

McClanahan, T. R., and J. Cinner. in press. A framework for adaptive gear and ecosystem-based management in the artisanal coral reef fishery of Papua New Guinea. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

McClanahan, T. R., M. Ateweberhan, C. Muhando, J. Maina, and S. M. Mohammed. in press. Effects of climate and seawater temperature variation on coral bleaching and mortality. Ecological Monographs.

McClanahan, T. R., M. Ateweberhan, C. R. Sebastian, N. A. J. Graham, S. K. Wilson, M. M. M. Guillaume, and J. H. Bruggemann. 2007. Western Indian Ocean coral communities: bleaching responses and susceptibility to extinction. Marine Ecology Progress Series 337:1-13.

McClanahan, T. R., M. Ateweberhan, C. Ruiz Sebastian, N. A. J. Graham, S. K. Wilson, J. H. Bruggemann, and M. M. M. Guillaume. 2007. Predictability of coral bleaching from synoptic satellite and in situ temperature observations. Coral Reefs 26:695-701.

McClanahan, T. R., M. Carreiro-Silva, and M. DiLorenzo. in press. Effect of nitrogen, phosphorous, and their interaction on coral reef algal succession in Glover’s Reef, Belize. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

McClanahan, T. R., N. A. J. Graham, J. M. Calnan, and M. A. MacNeil. 2007. Towards pristine biomass: reef fish recovery in coral reef marine protected areas in Kenya. Ecological Applications 17:1055-1067.

McClanahan, T. R., N. A. J. Graham, J. Maina, P. Chabanet, J. H. Bruggemann, and N. Polunin. 2007. Influence of instantaneous variation on estimates of coral reef fish populations and communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series 340:221-234.

Pratchett, M. S., C. N. Munday, S. K. Wilson, N. A. Graham, J. E. Cinner, D. R. Bellwood, G. P. Jones, N. V. C. Polunin, and T. R. McClanahan. in press. Effects of climate-induces coral bleaching on coral-reef fishes: ecological and economic consequences. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review.

Cinner, J. E., and T. R. McClanahan. 2006. Socioeconomic factors that lead to overfishing in small-scale coral reef fisheries of Papua New Guinea. Environmental Conservation

Cinner, J., M. J. Marnane, T. R. McClanahan, and G. R. Almany. 2006. Periodic closures as adaptive coral reef management in the Indo-Pacific. Ecology and Society

Damassa, T. D., J. E. Cole, H. R. Barnett, T. R. Ault, and T. R. McClanahan. 2006. Enhanced multidecadal variability in the 17th century from coral isotope records in the western Indian Ocean. Paleoceanography

Hémery, G., and T. R. McClanahan. 2006. Effect of recreational fish feeding on fish community composition and behaviour. Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science

McClanahan, T. R., E. Verheij, and J. Maina. 2006. Comparing management effectiveness of a marine park and a multiple-use collaborative management area in East Africa. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems

McClanahan, T. R., S. Mwaguni, and N. A. Muthiga. 2005. Management of the Kenyan coast. Ocean & Coastal Management

T. R. McClanahan and N. A. J. Graham. 2005. Recovery trajectories of coral reef fish assemblages within Kenyan marine protected areas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 294:241-248

McClanahan, T.R. 2003. The near future of coral reefs. Environmental Conservation 29(4): 460-483

McClanahan, T.R. 2002. A comparison of the ecology of shallow subtidal gastropods between western Indian Ocean and Caribbean coral reefs. Coral Reefs 21(4): 399-406

McClanahan, T.R., B.A. Cokos and E. Sala. 2002. Algal growth and species composition under experimental control of herbivory, phosphorus and coral abundance in Glovers Reef, Belize. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44(6): 441-451

McClanahan, T.R., J. Maina, L. Pet-Soede and L. Ambio. 2002. Effects of the 1998 Coral Morality Event on Kenyan Coral Reefs and Fisheries. (543-550 pp)

Carreiro-Silva, M., McClanahan. 2001. Echinoid bioerosion and herbivory on Kenyan coral reefs: the role of protection from fishing. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 262:133-153

McClanahan, T.R. and S. Mangi. 2001. The effect of a closed area and beach seine exclusion on coral reef fish catches. Fisheries Management and Ecology 8(2): 107-122

McClanahan, T.R., M. McField, M. Huitric, K. Bergman, E. Sala, M. Nystrom, I. Nordemar, T. Elfwing and N.A. Muthiga. 2001. Responses of algae, corals and fish to the reduction of macroalgae in fished and unfished patch reefs of Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize. Coral Reefs 19(4): 367-379

Mcclanahan, T.R., N.A. Muthiga, S. Mangi. 2001. Coral and algal changes after the 1998 coral bleaching: interaction with reef management and herbivoes on Kenyan reefs. Coral Reefs 19(4): 380-391

McClanahan, T.R., R. Arthur. 2001. The effect of marine reserves and habitat on populations of East African coral reef fishes. Ecological Applications 11(2): 559-569

McClanahan, T.R. 2000. Recovery of a coral reef keystone predator, Balistapus undulatus, in East African marine parks. Biological conservation 94(2): 191

McClanahan, T.R., K. Bergman, M. Huitric, M. McField, T. Elfwing, M. Nystrom and I. Nordemar. 2000. Responses of fishes to algae reduction on Glovers Reef, Belize. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 206:273-282

McClanahan, T.R., Obura, D.O., Sheppard, C. (editors). 2000. Coral Reefs of the Indian Ocean: Their Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press, NY, pp. 525

McClanahan, T.R.. 1998. In living coral color. Wildlife Conservation 101(4): 28

McClanahan, T.R. 1997. Empty ark? Swara 20(2): 7

McClanahan, T.R. 1997. Letter from under the sea. The Wildlife Conservation Magazine 100(2): 6-7

McClanahan, T.R. 1997. Monitoring - the state of our art. Reef Encounter 20:9-11

McClanahan, T.R. and B. Kaunda-Arara. 1996. Fishery recovery in a coral-reef marine park and its effect on the adjacent fishery. Conservation Biology 10(4): 1187

McClanahan, T.R. and T. P. Young (eds.). 1996. East African Ecosystems and Their Conservation. Oxford University Press, UK

McClanahan, T. R. 1995. A coral reef ecosystem-fisheries model: Impacts of fishing intensity and catch selection on reef structure and processes. Ecological Modeling 80(1): 1

McClanahan, T.R. 1995. Fish predators and scavengers of the sea urchin Echinometra mathaei in Kenyan coral-reef marine parks. Environmental Biology of Fishes 43:187-193

McClanahan, T.R. and D. Obura. 1995. Status of Kenyan coral reefs. Coastal Management 23:57-76

McClanahan, T.R. 1994. Coral-eating snail (Drupella cornus) population increases in Kenyan coral reef lagoons. Marine Ecology Progress Series 115:131-137

McClanahan, T.R. 1994. Kenyan coral reef lagonal fishes: Associations with reef management, complexity, and sea urchins. Coral Reefs 13:231-241

McClanahan, T.R. and J. Mutere. 1994. Coral and sea urchin assemblage structure and inter-relationships in Kenyan reef lagoons. Hydrobiologia 286:109-124

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