The Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment (FORCE) Project partners a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Europe and the Caribbean to enhance the scientific basis for managing coral reefs in an era of rapid climate change and unprecedented human pressure on coastal resources. The overall aim is to provide coral reef managers with a toolbox of sustainable management practices that minimise the loss of coral reef health and biodiversity. An ecosystem approach is taken that explicitly links the health of the ecosystem with the livelihoods of dependent communities, and identifies the governance structures needed to implement sustainable development. Project outcomes are reached in four steps. First, a series of experimental, observational and modelling studies are carried out to understand both the ultimate and proximate drivers of reef health and therefore identify the chief causes of reef degradation. Second, the project assembles a toolbox of management measures and extends their scope where new research can significantly improve their efficacy. Examples include the first ‘coral-friendly’ fisheries policies that balance herbivore extraction against the needs of the ecosystem, the incorporation of coral bleaching into marine reserve design, and creation of livelihood enhancement and diversification strategies to reduce fisheries capacity. Third, focus groups and ecological models are used to determine the efficacy of management tools and the governance constraints to their implementation. This step impacts practical reef management by identifying the tools most suited to solving a particular management problem but also benefits high-level policy-makers by highlighting the governance reform needed to implement such tools effectively. Lastly, the exploitation and dissemination of results benefits from continual engagement with practitioners. The project will play an important and measurable role in helping communities adapt to climate change in the Caribbean.