Program 1: Evolutionary and Environnmental Change
Program Leader: Professor Malcolm McCulloch
Knowledge of the past improves our ability to predict future influences of natural environmental variability, human impacts, and climate change on coral reefs. Using the fossil record, Centre staff are working to develop novel methods for identifying potential causes of global changes in biodiversity and ecosystem function. Together with our ecological studies, this broad array of work provides the Centre with a unique perspective on community change that ranges from centuries to millennia.
(a) Evolutionary dynamics of coral reefs: Two sub-programs focus on (i) the fossil record and morphometric and molecular-based phylogenies of functional groups of fishes, corals, coralline algae and zooxanthellae and (ii) the quaternary history of coral reef assemblages in the past 400,000 years.
(b) Climatic variability, floods and terrestrial runoff: This group applies cutting-edge isotope technologies to develop banded coral skeletons as proxies for paleoclimates and human impacts in Australia and overseas. This innovative approach enables understanding of global climate changes, rainfall variability and drought, and long-term trajectories of nutrient and sediment discharge onto the Great Barrier Reef.
(c) Long-term records of human-coral reef interaction: Data is being assembled from a range of sources from before the arrival of humans to the present (including Quaternary fossil deposits (past 2MA), coastal archeological records (past 6000 years), historical documents, fisheries records and modern ecological studies) to quantify human impacts and explore management options.