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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Jim Falter

Jim Falter

Senior Research Fellow

University of Western Australia

+61 (0)8 6488 3459

Research Interests

My present research is focused on understanding how climate forcing affects the growth and productivity of coral reef communities through changing ocean physics and chemistry; particularly within the context of increased ocean warming and acidification.  I conduct most of my research through a combination of field studies, numerical modelling, and flume/mesocosm experiments.


Select Publications

Cuttler M, Lowe R, Falter J, Buscombe D (2016) Estimating the Settling Velocity of Bioclastic Sediments Using Common GrainSize Analysis Techniques.  Sedimentology, DOI: 10.1111/sed.12338.

Falter J, Lowe R, Zhang Z (2016) Toward a Universal MassMomentum Transfer Relationship for Predicting Nutrient Uptake and Metabolite Exchange in Benthic Reef Communities.  Geophysical Research Letters 43(18): 9764-9772.

Lowe R, Pivan X, Falter J, Symonds G, Gruber R (2016) Rising Sea Levels Will Reduce Extreme Temperature Variations in Tide-Dominated Reef Habitats.  Science Advances 2 (8), e1600825.

Zhang Z, Lowe R, Xu J, Falter J, Ivey G (2016). The Combined Effect of Transient Wind-Driven Upwelling and Eddies On Vertical Nutrient Fluxes and Phytoplankton Dynamics Along Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, DOI: 10.1002/2016JC011791.

Foster T, Falter JL, Clode PL, McCulloch MM (2016). Ocean Acidification Causes Structural Deformities in Juvenile Coral Skeletons. Science Advances, 2(2): e1501130, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501130.

Schoepf V, Stat M, Falter JL, McCulloch MT (2015).  Limits to the Thermal Tolerance of Corals Adapted to a Highly Fluctuating, Naturally Extreme Temperature Environment.  Scientific Reports, 5, 17639, DOI: 10.1038/srep17639.

Georgiou LK, Falter JL, Trotter J, Kline DI, Holcomb M, Dove SG, Hoegh-Guldberg O, and McCulloch MT (2015).  pH Homeostasis During Coral Calcification in a Free Ocean Co2 Enrichment (Foce) Experiment, Heron Island Lagoon, Great Barrier Reef,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(43): 13219-13224, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1505586112.

Dandan S, Falter JL, McCulloch MM, and Lowe RJ (2015).  The Resilience of Coral Growth to  Extreme Temperature Variations Within the Macro-Intertidal Zone of the Kimberley, Western Australia. Coral Reefs, 34(4): 1151-1163, DOI: 10.1007/s00338-015-1335-6.

Long MH, Berg P, and Falter JL (2015).  Seagrass Metabolism across a Productivity Gradient Using the Eddy Covariance, Eulerian Control Volume, and Biomass Addition Techniques. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 120(5): 3624-3639, DOI: 10.1002/2014JC010352.

Ross C, Falter JL, Schoepf V, and McCulloch MT (2015) Robust Perennial Growth of Hermatypic Coral at Rottnest Island, Western Australia (32°S). PeerJ 3: e781

Lowe RJ and Falter JL (2015) Oceanic Forcing of Coral Reefs.  Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci. 7:43-66.

Falter JL, Z Zhang, RJ Lowe, F McGregor, J Keesing, and MT McCulloch (2014) Assessing the Drivers of Spatial Variation in Thermal Forcing Across a Nearshore Reef System and Implications for Coral Bleaching. Limnology and Oceanography, 59: 1241–1255.

Zhang Z, Falter JL, Lowe RJ, Ivey G, and McCulloch (2013) Atmospheric Forcing Intensifies the Effects of Regional Ocean Warming on Reef-Scale Temperature Anomalies During a Bleaching Event. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 118: 1-17 doi: 10.1002/jgrc.20338.

Falter JL, Lowe RJ, Zhang Z, and McCulloch M (2013) Physical and Biological Controls on the Carbonate Chemistry of Coral Reef Waters: Effects of Metabolism, Wave Forcing, Sea Level, and Geomorphology.  PLoS ONE, 8(1): e53303, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053303.

McCulloch M, Falter JL, Trotter J, Montagna P (2012) Coral Resilience to  Ocean Acidification and Global Warming Through pH Up-Regulation. Nature Climate Change, doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1473.

Falter JL, Lowe RJ, Atkinson M, Cuet P (2012) Seasonal Coupling and De-coupling of Calcification Rates From Coral Reef Metabolism and Carbonate Chemistry at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 117, C05003, doi:10.1029/2011JC007268.

Zhang Z, Falter JL, Lowe RJ, and Ivey G (2012) the Combined Influence of Hydrodynamic Forcing and Calcification on the Spatial Distribution of Alkalinity in a Coral Reef System.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 117, C04034, doi:10.1029/2011JC007603.

Wyatt ASJ, Falter JL, Lowe RJ, Humphries S, and Waite AM (2012) Oceanographic Forcing of Nutrient Uptake and Release Over a Fringing Coral Reef. Limnology and Oceanography, 57(2): 401-419.

McCulloch M, Trotter J, Montagna P, Falter J, Dunbar R, Freiwald A, Forsterra G, Lopez-Correa M, Maier C, Ruggeberg A, Taviani M (2012) Resilience of Cold-Water Scleractinian Corals to  Ocean Acidification: Boron Isotopic Systematics of pH and Saturation State Up-Regulation. Geochimica et Cosmochim Acta, 87: 21-34.

Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, Lowe RJ, Monismith SG, and Schar DW (2011) Short-Term Coherency Between Gross Primary Production and Community Respiration in an Algal-Dominated Reef Flat, Coral Reefs, doi: 10.1007/s00338-010-0671-9.

Lowe RJ, Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, and Monismith SG (2009) a Numerical Study of Circulation in a Coastal Reef-Lagoon System, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 114, C06022, doi: 10.1029/2007JC004663.

Falter JL, Lowe RJ, Atkinson MJ, Monismith SG, and Schar DW (2008) Continuous Measurements of Net Production over a Shallow Reef Community using a Modified Eulerian Approach, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 113, C07035, doi: 10.1029/2007JC004663.

Lowe RJ, Falter JL, Koseff JR, Monismith SG & Atkinson MJ (2007) Spectral Wave Flow Attenuation within Submerged Canopies: Implications for Wave Energy Dissipation, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 112, C05018, doi: 10.1029/2006JC003605.

Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, and Coimbra CF-M (2005) Effects of Surface Roughness and Oscillatory Flow on Dissolution of Plaster Forms: Evidence for Nutrient Mass Transfer to Coral Reef Communities, Limnology and Oceanography, 50: 246-254.

Lowe RJ, Falter JL, Bandet MD, Pawlak G, Atkinson MJ, Monismith SG, and Koseff JR (2005) Spectral Wave Dissipation over a Barrier Reef, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 100: C04001.

Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, and Merrifield Ma (2004) Mass Transfer Limitation of Nutrient Uptake by a Wave-Dominated Reef Flat Community, Limnology and Oceanography, 49: 1820-1831.

Atkinson MJ, Falter JL (2003) Biogeochemistry of Coral Reefs. In: Biogeochemistry of Marine Systems. Black KP, Shimmield GB [eds], CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, p 40-64.

Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, Langdon C (2001) Production-Respiration Relationships at Different Time-Scales Within the Biosphere 2 Coral Reef Biome, Limnology and Oceanography, 46: 1653-1660.

Falter JL, Sansone FJ (2000) Hydraulic Control of Pore Water Geochemistry Within the Oxic-Suboxic Zone of a Permeable Sediment, Limnology and Oceanography, 45:550-557.



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