Sustainability

The Ecology of Subtropical Reefs

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Subtropical ecosystems, where tropical, subtropical and temperate species overlap, are being transformed by changes in species distributions and interactions in response to warming and provide a unique ‘window’ into how climate change might influence complex biological systems. Brigitte examines these dynamics in the tropical-to-temperate transition zone in eastern Australia, where corals occur at their high-latitude range limits. She combines field ecology and statistical modelling to investigate how these marginal reefs differ from tropical coral reefs, how they function and how they may be altered by climate change. This will provide more accurate predictions of climate change impacts and build Australia’s capacity for early adaptation.

The proposed research directly aligns with the Sydney Environment Institute and the National Research Priority of “Environmental Change” by investigating how complex marine ecosystems can be sustainably maintained and managed as diverse ecosystems under climate change. This will provide more accurate predictions of climate change impacts and build Australia’s capacity for early adaptation. This is critical to the sustainability of human livelihoods derived from these socio-ecological systems.

This project is expected to include collaborations with the University of Queensland, James Cook University, University of Technology Sydney, University of Leeds, UK, University of the Ryukyus, Japan and NSW Department of Primary Industries.

This project is being led by Dr Brigitte Sommer, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute.