Predicting coral reef biodiversity patterns for conservation

Presentation to Distinguished Guest Seminar Series, University of Wollongong, September 2012

Predicting coral reef biodiversity patterns for conservation

Camille Mellin
Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No3, Townsville 4810 QLD
Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Adelaide 5005 SA

Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems but also the most vulnerable to direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures associated with global change. This underpins the need for streamlined and cost-effective conservation strategies to maximize the persistence of coral reef biodiversity. I will explore the potential for using environmental and geographical variables to predict reef fish diversity and show how remotely-sensed and benthic habitat images can provide good proxies for fish diversity and, in turn, a cost-effective means of informing marine conservation. I will then demonstrate how the temporal variance of fish abundances (a proxy for extinction risk) varies spatially and increases on small and isolated reefs, highlighting the short-comings of species distribution models that do not consider species interactions, dispersal and meta-population dynamics. Using a focused study of abalone on south Australian temperate reefs, I will show how accounting for these processes using coupled niche-population models can help achieve more realistic predictions of a species’ range and population size under climate change, underlying the need for more sophisticated and integrated approaches to the prediction of coral reef biodiversity patterns in the future.

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