Coral reefs provide economic and environmental services for millions of people but undergoing significant ecological decline due to local (i.e., sedimentation, land-based pollution, invasive species) and global (i.e., ocean warming and ocean acidification) impacts. Actions on these local disturbances may potentially influence coral reef response to and recovery from these climatic threats; however, these drivers’ interactive effects are relatively unknown and difficult to assess across ecological scales in an experimental setting. Here, I discuss the responses of corals and coral reefs to these multiple stressors in a well-documented coral reef ecosystem using long-term monitoring and experimental conditions. Ongoing experimentation and long-term monitoring efforts have revealed coral response (i.e., calcification, bleaching, and mortality) varies across reefs, species, and individuals. This observed variation provides unique opportunities to explore the capability and mechanisms of resilience in our changing ocean climate. The results of this work have been integrated into the management strategies of the local state agency and have increased capacity for coral reef management through applied research. Through interdisciplinary collaborations with academic, government, non-governmental institutions, and local community groups, we will continue to develop the knowledge and tools to restore, preserve, and manage our coral reef ecosystems.
Dr. Keisha Bahr is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC). Before joining TAMU-CC, she was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. As a marine ecologist, Keisha’s research interests are broad but focus on understanding how organisms react and adapt to natural and anthropogenic environmental stress. She seeks to reveal insights into ecosystem health and resilience and future patterns of biological diversity while providing practical solutions to managers, policymakers, and communities. www.BahrLab.com Twitter: @theBahrLab @KeishaBahr