Karen comes from the Seychelles and did her BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology at JCU. Her honours thesis investigated coral reef fishes and their consumption of coral disease. She is now returning to her home country for her PhD project to try and understand the ecological processes aiding and abetting the recovery of Seychelles coral reefs after being hit by the ’98 bleaching. She is supervised by Dr. Nick Graham, Dr. Morgan Pratchett and Prof. David Bellwood.
An ecosystem’s ability to recover from disturbances is eroded by the combined impacts of climate change, anthropogenic influences and natural stressors. Shifts in the dominant benthic biota of a reef system – from coral to macroalgae, soft corals or sponges for example, are an increasingly common impact of disturbances, and are termed alternative states. These states can be hard to recover from if there are stable changes to the system’s processes. Traditionally, assessments of reef recovery use the broad metric ‘change in coral cover’. This metric however, misses essential detail such as changes in coral community composition or recruitment rates. It is therefore important to consider different aspects of the recovery process: i) changes in community composition of alternative states, ii) the key processes of herbivory and coral replenishment, and iii) the interactions of all these aspects and the nature of the change required.