Dr Morgan Pratchett is a Principal Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based at James Cook University, Townsville. He has broad interests in population and community ecology of coral reef organisms, especially corals and fishes. His current research focuses on major disturbances that impact coral reef ecosystems, with a view to understanding differential responses and vulnerabilities among coral reef organisms. Dr Morgan Pratchett has written several papers describing direct and indirect effects of coral bleaching and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, considering impacts on both coral assemblages and associated assemblages of coral reef fishes. He is also an international authority on the biology and ecology of coral reef butterflyfishes and his currently writing and editing a monograph dedicated to this iconic family of coral reef fishes (Biology of Butterflyfishes, Science Publishers Inc.). Dr Morgan Pratchett is supported by a 5-year ARC Australian Research Fellowship, with research support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He also has grants from the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) and Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF). Recently, organ was also awarded a Churchill Fellowship (2007-08) to collaborate with Professor Nicholas Polunin at the University of Newcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship (2008-09) from the American Australian Association to collaborate with Dr Bernhard Reigl at the National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Florida.
Australia’s aquatic ecosystems are unique, supporting a high diversity of species and high levels of endemism, but are also extremely vulnerable to climate change. This review assesses climate-induced changes to structural habitats that have occurred in different aquatic ecosystems. Climatic impacts are often difficult to discern against the background of habitat degradation caused by more direct anthropogenic impacts. However, climate impacts will become more pronounced with ongoing changes in temperature, water chemistry, sea level, rainfall patterns, and ocean currents. Each of these factors is likely to have specific effects on ecosystems, communities or species, and their relative importance varies across different marine and freshwater habitats. In the Murray-Darling Basin, the greatest concern relates to declines in surface water availability and riverine flow, due to declining rainfall and increased evaporative loss. On the Great Barrier Reef, increasing temperatures and ocean acidification contribute to sustained and ongoing loss of habitat-forming corals. Despite the marked differences in major drivers and consequences of climate change, the solution is always the same. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced as a matter of urgency, whilst also minimizing non-climatic disturbances. Together, these actions will maximize opportunities for adaptation by species and increase ecosystem resilience.