- Marine Community Ecology
- Theoretical & Statistical Modelling
- Biogeography / Macroecology
- Physiological Ecology
My research group uses a combination of mathematical modelling and empirical work, to address fundamental questions about the origin and maintenance of biodiversity, and also to understand the ecological impacts of environmental changes caused by human activity, such as overfishing and climate change. Mostly, but not exclusively, we use coral reefs as a study system.
Our ongoing work spans a broad range of processes and scales, from the determinants of global-scale patterns in species richness to the energetics of individual organisms. Key research areas include:
Species Richness Gradients on Coral Reefs.—We are investigating the effects of historical and contemporary environmental factors on coral reef biodiversity. Increasingly, we are moving beyond traditional randomization and correlative approaches that focus only on patterns in species richness, and towards approaches that allow testing of multiple predictions – not only species richness, but the full distribution of species range sizes and locations that give rise to those predictions. A key part of this is building hypothesized mechanisms into process-based models in which species ranges arise dynamically in response to the geographical distribution of environmental conditions (habitat availability, temperature, etc.).
Commonness, Rarity, and Biodiversity on Coral Reefs.—We are using patterns of species richness and relative abundance in coral reef assemblages to test a variety of general models of community dynamics suitable for high-diversity assemblages like coral reefs. Most previous tests of biodiversity theory have focused on a single prediction (for instance, the species-abundance distribution at the level of individual sites), which is problematic because very different mechanistic assumptions often lead to similar or even identical predictions. To overcome this, we are exploring analytical approximations that identify shared predictions of models that make similar core assumptions about mechanism, and exploiting hierarchically-structured empirical data sets to test multiple predictions of biodiversity simultaneously. This gives us much greater power to distinguish between competing explanations.
Community ecology.—We address a broad range of questions in community ecology. Current projects include the interactive effects of heterospecific aggression and dietary specialization on community structure in butterflyfishes, the relationship between biodiversity and the temporal stability of ecosystem functioning, dispersal-mediated mechanisms of species coexistence, effects of habitat engineering by damselfishes on benthic community structure and dynamics, and the role of demographic tradeoffs in the coexistence of reef coral species.
Population Dynamics, Marine Protected Areas, and Extinction Risk on Coral Reefs.—Coral reef fisheries provide sustenance and income to millions of people worldwide. Increasing human population size, and the globalisation of fish markets, are increasing the pressure on many coral reef species, including those that are directly targeted or indirectly affected by fishing activities. We are using population models to investigate a variety of questions related to the viability of coral reef species subject to fishing pressure. Key recent and ongoing topics include robust estimation of population viability in coral reef shark populations, and determining the effects of no-take marine reserves on sustainable yields of reef fish species.
Physiological Ecology of Reef Corals.—Physical environmental conditions influence population and community dynamics mainly through their effects on the physiology of individual organisms –by influencing their acquisition and expenditure of energy, and their responses to encounters with symbionts, competitors, prey, predators, and pathogens. Our work in this area focuses on going beyond simple “canned” analyses of laboratory experiments that examine individual colony responses to environmental stress, to the calibration of population-dynamic models that allow us to understand how environmental variables like light, temperature, and ocean acidity influence the energy budgets of coral colonies, and consequently their lifetime growth, survival, and reproductive output. By linking coral demography to calibrated responses of organisms to environmental conditions, we are in a much better position to anticipate likely responses to environmental changes, such as increases in coastal runoff, temperature, and ocean acidification.
(Note: for student-led research, the student’s name is italicized.)
- Thibaut, L.M., S.R. Connolly, and H.P.A. Sweatman. 2012. Diversity and stability of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. Ecology 93: 891-901.
- Chan, N.C.S., S.R. Connolly, and B.D. Mapstone. 2012. Effects of sex change on the implications of marine reserves for fisheries. Ecological Applications 22: 778-791.
- Blowes, S.A. and S.R. Connolly. 2012. Risk-spreading, connectivity, and optimal reserve spacing. Ecological Applications 22: 311-321.
- Madin, J.S., M.O. Hoogenboom, and S.R. Connolly. 2012. Integrating physiological and biomechanical drivers of population growth over environmental gradients on coral reefs. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 968-976
- Connolly, S.R., and L.M. Thibaut. 2012. A comparative analysis of alternative approaches to fitting species abundance models. Journal of Plant Ecology 5: 32-45
- Malerba, M.E., S.R. Connolly, and K. Heimann. 2012. Nitrate-nitrite dynamics and phytoplankton growth: Formulation and experimental evaluation of a dynamic model. Limnology and Oceanography 57: 1555-1571.
- Figueiredo, J. and S.R. Connolly. 2012. Dispersal-mediated coexistence under recruitment limitation and displacement competition. Ecological Modelling 243: 133-142.
- Hobbs, J-P.A., G.P. Jones, P. L. Munday, S. R. Connolly, and M. Srinivasan. 2012. Biogeography and the structure of coral reef fish communities on isolated islands. Journal of Biogeography 39: 130-139.
- Pandolfi, J.M., S.R. Connolly, D.J. Marshall, and A.L. Cohen. 2011. Projecting coral reef futures under global warming and ocean acidification. Science 333: 418-422.
- Karlson, R.H., S.R. Connolly, and T.P. Hughes. 2011. Spatial variance in abundance and occupancy of corals across broad geographical scales. Ecology 92: 1282-1291.
- Hisano, M., S.R. Connolly, and W.D. Robbins. 2011. Population growth rates of reef sharks with and without fishing on the Great Barrier Reef: robust estimation with multiple models. PLoS ONE 6: e25028, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025028
- Connolly, S.R. and M. Dornelas. 2011. Fitting and empirical evaluation of models for species abundance distributions. In Magurran, A.E. and B. McGill, editors. Biological diversity: frontiers in measurement and assessment. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
- Cetina-Heredia, P. and S. R. Connolly. 2011. A simple approximation for larval retention around reefs. Coral Reefs 30: 593-605
- Hoogenboom, M.O., S.R. Connolly, and K.R.N. Anthony. 2011. Biotic and abiotic correlates of tissue quality for common scleractinian corals. Marine Ecology Progress Series 438: 119-128.
- Connolly, S.R. and A.H. Baird. 2010. Estimating dispersal potential for marine larvae: dynamic models applied to scleractinian corals. Ecology 91: 3572-3583.
- Salomon, Y., S.R. Connolly, and L. Bode. 2010. Effects of asymmetric dispersal on the coexistence of competing species. Ecology Letters 13: 432–441.
- Connolly, S. R., M. Dornelas, D. R. Bellwood, and T. P. Hughes. 2009. Testing species-abundance models: a new bootstrap approach applied to Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Ecology 90: 3138-3149.
- Penin, L., F. Michonneau, A.H. Baird, S.R. Connolly, M.S. Pratchett, M. Kayal, and M. Adjeroud. 2010. Early post-settlement mortality and the structure of coral assemblages. Marine Ecology Progress Series 408: 55-64.
- Gotelli, N.J., M.J. Anderson, H.T. Arita, A. Chao, R. K. Colwell, S. R. Connolly, D.J. Currie, R.R. Dunn, G.R. Graves, J.L. Green, J.-A. Grytnes, Y.-H. Jiang, W. Jetz, S.K. Lyons, C.M. McCain, A.E. Magurran, C. Rahbek, T.F.L.V.B. Rangel, J. Soberón, C.O. Webb, M.R. Willig. 2009. Patterns and causes of species richness: a general simulation model for macroecology. Ecology Letters, 12: 873–886.
- Almany, G. R., S. R. Connolly, D. D. Heath, J. D. Hogan, G. P. Jones, L. J. McCook, M. Mills, R. L. Pressey,D. H. Williamson. 2009. Connectivity, biodiversity conservation, and the design of marine reserve networks for coral reefs. Coral Reefs 28: 339-351.
- Connolly, S. R. 2009. Macroecological theory and the analysis of species richness gradients. Pages 279-309 in Witman, J. and K. Roy, editors. Marine Macroecology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
- Hoogenboom, M. O., and S. R Connolly. 2009. Defining fundamental niche dimensions of corals: synergistic effects of colony size, light and flow. Ecology 90: 767-780.
- Elmhirst, T., S.R. Connolly, and T.P. Hughes. 2009. Connectivity, regime shifts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Coral Reefs 28: 949–957.
- Hoogenboom, M.O., S.R. Connolly, and K.R.N. Anthony. 2009. Effects of photo acclimation on the light niche of corals: a process-based approach. Marine Biology 156: 2493–2503.
- Dornelas, M., and S. R. Connolly. 2008. Multiple modes in a coral species abundance distribution. Ecology Letters 11: 1008–1016.
- Belmaker, J., Y. Ziv, N. Shashar, and S. R. Connolly. 2008. Regional variation in the hierarchical partitioning of alpha and beta diversity in coral-dwelling fishes. Ecology 89: 2829-2840.
- Hoogenboom, M. O., S. R. Connolly, and K. R. N. Anthony. 2008. Interactions between morphological and physiological plasticity optimize energy acquisition in corals. Ecology 89: 1144-1154.
- Madin, J. S., M. J. O’Donnell, and S. R. Connolly. 2008. Climate-mediated changes to post-disturbance coral assemblages. Biology Letters. 4, 490–493.
- Graham, E. M., A. H. Baird, and S. R. Connolly. 2008. Survival dynamics of scleractinian coral larvae and implications for dispersal. Coral Reefs 27: 529-539.
- Anthony, K. R. N., S. R. Connolly, and O. Hoegh-Guldberg. 2007. Bleaching, energetics, and coral mortality risk: Effects of temperature, light, and sediment regime. Limnology and Oceanography 52: 716-726.
- Madin, J. S. and S. R. Connolly. 2006. Ecological consequences of major hydrodynamic disturbances on coral reefs. Nature 444: 477-480.
- Robbins, W., M. Hisano, S. R. Connolly, and J. H. Choat. 2006. Ongoing collapse of coral reef shark populations. Current Biology 16: 2314-2319.
- Dornelas, M., S. R. Connolly, and T. P. Hughes. 2006. Coral reef diversity refutes the neutral theory of biodiversity. Nature 440: 80-82.
- Hoogenboom, M. O., K. R. N. Anthony, and S. R. Connolly. 2006. Energetic costs of photoinhibition in corals. Marine Ecology Progress Series 313: 1-12
- Connolly, S.R., T.P. Hughes, D.R. Bellwood and R.H. Karlson (2005) Community structure of corals and reef fishes at multiple scales. Science 309: 1363-1365.
- Connolly, S.R. (2005) Process-based models of species distributions and the mid-domain effect. American Naturalist 166:1-11.
- Bellwood, D.R., T.P. Hughes, S.R. Connolly and J.Tanner (2005) Environmental and geometric constraints on Indo-Pacific coral reef biodiversity. Ecology Letters 8:643-651.
- Anthony, K. R. N., M. Hoogenboom, and S. R. Connolly. 2005. Adaptive variation in coral geometry and the optimization of internal colony light climates. Functional Ecology, 19: 17-26.
- Anthony, K.R.N. and S.R. Connolly (2004) Environmental limits to growth: physiological niche boundaries of corals along turbidity-light gradients. Oecologia 141:373-384.
- Connolly, S. R., D. R. Bellwood, and T. P. Hughes. 2003. Indo-Pacific biodiversity of coral reefs: deviations from a mid-domain model. Ecology 84: 2178-2190.
- Connolly, S. R. and S. Muko. (2003) Space pre-emption, size-dependent competition,and the coexistence of clonal growth forms. Ecology 84, 2979-2988.
- Hughes, T.P., A.H. Baird, D.R. Bellwood, M. Card, S.R. Connolly, C. Folke, R. Grosberg, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, J.B.C. Jackson, J. Kleypas, J.M. Lough, P. Marshall, M. Nyström, S.R. Palumbi, J.M. Pandolfi, B. Rosen, J. Roughgarden. 2003. Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301: 929-933.