Corals are major contributors to a range of key ecosystem functions on tropical reefs, including calcification, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling and the provision of habitat structure. The abundance of corals is declining at multiple scales, and the species composition of assemblages is responding to escalating human pressures, including anthropogenic global warming. An urgent challenge is to understand the functional consequences of these shifts in abundance and composition in different biogeographical contexts. To address this problem, I develop and analyse a series of coral traits to quantify the trait-based dissimilarity (functional diversity) and similarity (functional redundancy) of corals using multidimensional trait space. This thesis is focussed on (i) biogeographical patterns in the functional diversity and redundancy of corals, (ii) how these patterns are changing in response to anthropogenic pressures, and (iii) the implications of these changes for the biodiversity and functioning of coral assemblages.
Mike is originally from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in the UK, and completed a degree in biological sciences at the University of Oxford. As an undergraduate, he specialised in the biogeography and evolution of deep-sea corals with Oxford’s oceanic research group. After working as a diving instructor in various locations, he started a PhD at the ARC centre for coral reef studies under the supervision of Prof. Terry Hughes and Dr Mia Hoogenboom. He is interested in the diversity and biogeography of corals and how human activities are influencing reef ecosystem functions.