Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Lancaster
Dates: Oct 2015-Oct 2020
Summary: The world’s ecosystems are being profoundly reshaped by climate change and local human impacts. These changing conditions are creating winners and losers among species. While some species are increasing in abundance, for example through reduced competition with other organisms, other species are very sensitive to change and may decline in abundance. These changes are leading to ecosystem compositions (types and relative abundances of species present) that have not been seen before; so called novel ecosystems. Importantly, these changes mean that the rules of how ecosystems behave are changing and there is a need to understand what species compositions are likely to emerge, and how this affects the way ecosystems function. Coral reef ecosystems provide an ideal lens through which to explore these changes, as they are among the most threatened systems to climate change and local human impacts, and they are easily accessible for in situ study. My research assesses the changing composition of coral reef ecosystems, asking questions such as: How do climate change and local human impacts combine to alter the species composition of coral reefs?; How do these impacts influence the way energy flows through reef ecosystems, from algal feeding species to top predators, and the associated fisheries benefits provided to people?; and How do different species compositions influence the functions that maintain and define the ecosystem? This research has implications for the management of coral reefs in a changing world, helping to identify the species, functions and benefits (e.g. fish production) that are likely to change, and consequently how management may need to adapt in the future.