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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Effects of climate change on coral trout (Plectropomus spp.) and possible adaptation options


Monday, April 24th 12:00 to 13:00 hrs

Building 19, Room 106, JCU Townsville Campus
Morgan Pratchett, Vanessa Messmer, Nadine Marshall, and Chris Cvitanovic
Morgan Pratchett, Vanessa Messmer, Nadine Marshall, and Chris Cvitanovic

Abstract. Global climate change is increasingly considered one of the major threats to tropical coastal fisheries, potentially undermining important revenue and food security provided by coral reef ecosystems. While there has been significant and increasing work on understanding specific effects of climate change on coral reef fishes, few studies have considered large-bodied fisheries target species, limiting understanding of the effects of climate change on tropical fisheries. This series of short seminars focuses explicitly on coral trout (Plectropomus spp., and mainly Plectropomus leopardus), which are heavily fished throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans, and represent an exemplar group to assess potential effects of climate change on coral reef fisheries. In experimental studies, P. leopardus appear to be extremely sensitive to increasing ocean temperature, exhibiting declines in survivorship, aerobic scope and activity with relatively moderate increases in temperature. As such, ongoing ocean warming may jeopardize the catchability of coral trout and sustainability of reef-based fisheries on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), especially in the Northern regions. In this seminar, we will outline the latest experimental research that reveals the vulnerability of coral trout (Pratchett and Messmer), as well as exploring ecological and socio-economic adaptations that could reduce vulnerability of coral reef fisheries to climate impacts, using a linked socio-economic framework (Marshall). Moreover, we outline the next steps and ongoing research necessary to establish the feasibility and acceptability of alternative adaptation options (Cvitanovic), to improve the resilience of commercial fisheries on the GBR.

Biography. Professor Morgan Pratchett is a chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based at James Cook University. 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. In 2010, he was awarded funding from FRDC to explore the vulnerability of coral trout (Plectropomus spp.) to sustained and ongoing climate change, which remains a key research focus.

Dr. Vanessa Messmer is a Research Felllow within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based at James Cook University. Her research focuses on the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss from a genetic to ecosystem level in coral reef fish assemblages, as well as the effects of climate change on reef organisms. Vanessa directed the very ambitious experiment to directly test temperature sensitivity of coral trout.

Dr. Nadine Marshall is a senior social scientist with CSIRO, Land and Water, based in Townsville.  Her research focuses on the relationship between people and natural resources for the purposes of better understanding how strategies can be developed that protect environmental goals whilst  minimising social impacts. She currently manages a portfolio of research projects across a range of primary industries including cattle, farming, tourism and commercial fishing as well as coastal communities along the Great Barrier Reef. Within this portfolio she manages the Social and Long Term Monitoring Program for the Great Barrier Reef. Key interests include social resilience, adaptive capacity, resource dependency, vulnerability and social and economic monitoring.

Dr. Chris Cvitanovic is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania, Australia, specialising in knowledge exchange, stakeholder engagement and the governance of marine resources. In doing so Chris draws on almost ten years of experience working at the interface of science and policy for the Australian Government Department of Environment, and then as a Knowledge Broker for CSIROs Climate Adaptation Flagship.


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