People and ecosystems

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


Responding to a changing world

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

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

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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Geographic variation in the ecology of butterflyfishes and resilience to large scale disturbances


Tuesday 3 February, 2:30 pm

ARC Centre of Excellence Conference Room, JCU (DB44). Video-link to Centre for Marine Studies, UQ
Rebecca Lawton


Climate-induced coral loss is causing declines in abundance and diversity of coral reef fishes. Thus far, these impacts have been greatest on those fishes which depend on live coral for food or shelter, with the most specialized species showing the greatest declines in abundance following coral mortality. As the frequency, intensity and magnitude of disturbance events on coral reefs increase, many such fishes may be at considerable risk of extinction. Establishing the extinction risk, and more importantly the factors that increase extinction risk among vulnerable species groups, is therefore critical in prioritizing conservation efforts aimed at preventing and reversing biodiversity loss. This study will investigate the capacity of large-range butterflyfishes to withstand large-scale disturbances through variation in ecological versatility, and/or recolonisation of disturbed habitats by remnant populations. The specific aims of the project are (1) to investigate geographic variation in the feeding ecology of wide-ranging butterflyfishes and determine whether specialisation is a local or regionalised phenomenon; (2) to investigate the influence of diet and resource availability on the abundance and distribution of butterflyfishes; (3) to determine genetic population structure and quantify population connectivity among geographically separated populations of large-range butterflyfishes; and (4) to investigate the effects of ecological specialisation on the genetic population structure of butterflyfishes. This research will provide a greater understanding of the relationships between abundance, specialisation, geographic range, population connectivity and extinction risk in coral reef fishes.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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