On coral reefs, the biological and physical habitat provided by scleractinian corals is critical for coral reef fishes. Consequently, declines in the quality or quantity of coral habitat have had significant effects on the abundance and diversity of many reef associated fishes. Coral reef ecosystems around the world are very sensitive to changes in environmental conditions, particularly the effects brought on by global climate change leading to the bleaching and degradation of coral habitats. Coral bleaching also tends to have the greatest effect on branching coral species that support many coral-dwelling fishes.
My PhD aims to explore the importance of live coral for coral reef fishes, with a view to predicting the likely extent of fishes that may be affected by sustained and ongoing loss of corals due to global climate change. The focus of my PhD will be on corals as habitat, and thus fishes that typically occupy live corals. I aim to investigate what factors and processes (e.g. competition, predation, migration) cause declines in the abundance of coral reef fishes following extensive coral bleaching and coral loss.