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Dr. Camille Mellin - Dynamic models of coral cover on the GBR
Wed. 29 March 2017, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm AEST
Speaker: Dr. Camille Mellin
Abstract: The accelerating erosion of coral reef biodiversity under the cumulative effect of human and natural
disturbances stresses the need to understand spatial patterns in resilience in support of conservation. Here we develop a high-resolution mechanistic model of coral cover across the GBR that accounts for the cumulative impact of disturbances such as coral disease, bleaching, outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) and cyclones. By blending deterministic (growth) and stochastic (disturbance) processes, our model is able to reconstruct coral cover
trajectories between 1996 and 2015 in a total of 16,035 grid cells at 1x1 km resolution. Our model provides the first credible information for the unsampled section of the GBR (~95%) predicting a mean annual rate of change in coral
cover of - 0.56% y-1 across the GBR. This decline resulted from an average 5% of the GBR being affected by cyclones, 4% by CoTS outbreaks and 2% by coral bleaching and disease in any year. Despite these disturbances, 10% of the GBR experienced an increase in coral cover between 1996 and 2015, with an additional 5% identified as bright spots of coral resilience (i.e. where decline was lower than expected based on disturbance severity). To date, our model represents the most advanced platform for predicting coral cover trajectories and the relative impact of multiple disturbances. Future applications include habitat prioritization for conservation based on spatial patterns in resilience, as well as forecasts of coral cover under future scenarios of management, climate and land use change.
About the author: Camille is an AIMS Research Scientist with strong interests in quantitative ecology and modelling, and a background in marine and coral reef ecology. She has been working at AIMS since 2008, first as a Postdoc under the CERF Marine Biodiversity Hub (MBH) and the NERP MBH, and now as an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award fellow.