Abstract: Coral reefs are dynamic and complex systems, and hence have ability teach us about fundamental principles of community ecology. One long-standing interest is learning how ecological communities organize, considering changes in structure and function during succession, and timelines for community development. Our team has been using data from geographic gradients complemented with extended observational time series to consider the foundations of ecological succession, exploring in detail mechanisms and patterns linked with the evolution of community structure. Following a disturbance, succession on coral reefs shows some consistencies. In general, the average sizes of fishes and corals increase, and these larger organisms show increased capacity to resist negative effects of subsequent disturbances. Species interactions (both trophic and competitive) become increasingly organized with succession, creating more stability of population and community structure.The structure of coral reefs is never static, especially given the rapid environmental changes today. As such, describing and predicting future coral reef structure and functioning demands a dynamical perspective, a perspective made clearer with a lens of ecological succession.
Biography: Stuart Sandin is a community ecologist with interests in understanding differences in the structure and functioning of ecosystems across space and through time. Much of his work has built upon observations from coral reef islands spanning distinct geographic gradients. With this perspective, Sandin founded the 100 Island Challenge (100IslandChallenge.org), a natural experiment aimed at defining the interacting effects of oceanographic context, island geomorphology, and human impacts on the composition and growth within coral reef communities. Sandin is the Oliver Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science and professor of marine ecology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He serves as the director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, a program based at Scripps promoting interdisciplinary research and educational approaches to maintain the integrity of ocean ecosystems and manage their use in the face of rapid and inevitable global change.