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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Do no-take marine reserves work? Population dynamics, connectivity and response to climate change


9.00am - 10.00am Monday, 19 July 2010

New ARC CoE Conference Room, Sir George Fisher building (DB32, room 114), JCU
Dr. David H. Williamson, ARC Centre of Excellence, James Cook University


Networks of no-take marine reserves (NTRs) are the frontline in attempts to sustainably manage exploitation of coral reef resources. Numerous studies have demonstrated positive benefits for populations of exploited species within NTR boundaries. However evidence of the potential contribution of NTR networks to achieving fishery resource sustainability or enhancing ecosystem-scale resilience through biodiversity conservation remains largely non-existent. It is not known whether NTR networks will promote resilience to climate change, or whether the increased frequency and severity of disturbance under predicted future scenarios would erode the positive effects of NTRs. To examine these issues it is necessary to understand how climate change will impact the effectiveness of individual reserves in protecting populations, influence recruitment subsidies from reserves to fished areas and affect connectivity between different nodes in NTR networks. In this seminar I will: (a) Show from a long-term GBR Marine Park monitoring project that while NTRs are extremely effective in protecting exploited species, evidence that NTRs are benefiting non-target species or affecting fish assemblage structure is less convincing. Furthermore, recent data suggest that NTR benefits are also reduced following severe climate-induced coral bleaching events. (b) Provide an overview of the first empirical larval dispersal data for large exploited reef fishes. This has been used to quantify levels of self-recruitment in individual NTRs, recruitment subsidies to fished populations and connectivity between NTRs. (c) Describe how larval dispersal data will be used to validate models that can simulate the effects of climate-induced habitat loss on rates of self-replenishment and connectivity, and hence population persistence. (d) Provide an overview of a new ARC Linkage project that will expand the scale and scope of larval connectivity work on the GBR. This work will be a core part of my research plan for the next three years if awarded an ARC Super Science Fellowship.


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