Introduction: Program 2

Chagos Reef Crest recovery 2006

Program 2: Ecosystem Dynamics: Past, Present and Future

Program Leaders: Professor Sean Connolly & Professor John Pandolfi

This multi-disciplinary program brings together leading ecologists, evolutionary biologists, geneticists, oceanographers and palaeontologists to examine the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution.


Historical Ecology, Palaeontology and Shifting Baselines – Examines the historical transition from pristine ecosystems to socio-ecological systems of today. It aims to improve knowledge of how the resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems evolves and its response to human impact.

Regime-Shifts and Resilience – Aims to increase knowledge of the dynamics and resilience of ecosystems and to incorporate these findings into coral reef management. Research focuses on quantifying the effects of multiple drivers of change on critical feedbacks that stabilise or destabilise ecosystems, generating threshold dynamics, hysteresis and alternate stable states.

Connectivity and Resilience – Examines aspects of connectivity at local to global scales including the spread of disease, introduction of new species and pests and the social impacts of human connectivity. We also explore the critical role of larval connectivity between meta-populations or meta-communities in promoting resilience and recovery of depleted local populations.

Macroecology, Ecosystem Functions and Biogeography – Quantifies the level of functional diversity and redundancy in coral reef assemblages. In tandem with Program 3 we will model and assess the effect of changes in biodiversity on ecosystem function along biogeographic and latitudinal gradients. We will also focus on how management practices impact on ecosystem dynamics.

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