Populations, demographics & biophysical modelling
There is a growing need to understand coral reefs as assemblages of different species populations, each with their own recruitment, growth, and mortality dynamics. This helps to predict population viability and persistence. A collaborative analysis of long-term demographic trends in the subtropics has highlighted the detailed inference about population dynamics that can be attained by assessing coral sizes and population size structure. This work revealed marked associations between heat stress and recruitment processes (Lachs et al. 2021).
In the Anthropocene, corals are increasingly threatened by extreme heat stress events that can lead to physiological damage, coral bleaching and ultimately mortality. However, what is the best way to calculate heat stress to predict coral bleaching and support science and management? We have been fine-tuning heat stress algorithms to optimise global predictions of coral bleaching using large-scale biological and environmental datasets paired with space-time Bayesian modelling (Lachs et al. 2021).
Importantly, understanding future trajectories of coral reefs under climate change is critical to effectively managing these captivating ecosystems. There is a present focus on restoring ecological function given the widespread decline in coral reefs (UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration). Therefore, we aim to evaluate the feasibility of different management and restoration approaches by implementing them in simulation models that assess long-term coral population and ecosystem trajectories.