Increasing accessibility of coral reefs from the latter third of the 20th century led quickly to recognition of the vulnerability of coral reef communities to a combination of direct and indirect human impacts. Coral reefs are confronted by the stark threats of climate and ocean changes from the increasing number, intensity and forms of human use impacting global and marine systems. Management, particularly of accessible coral reefs, occurs in the context of multiple scale transboundary water column linkages of lifecycle processes and increasing human use of coastal and marine space. Four decades of experience have demonstrated the combined importance of biophysical and socio-economic sciences and sharing knowledge with communities for developing implementing effective management. In the face of environmental and socio-economic change the challenge for science and management is to develop knowledge and management responses that can better understand and increase resilience to improve he outlook for coral reef communities.