Population and community ecology of algae in coral reefs

Colpomenia sinuosa Taganga

Colpomenia sinuosa Taganga

The relative abundance of macroalgae and hard corals is generally related to coral reef status. Studying the patterns, causes and consequences of the ecological dynamics between macroalgae and corals is fundamental to the understanding of reef resilience and for management and conservation of coral reefs. We explore the extent of the variability in the abundance of macroalgae (including algal turfs, crustose coralline algae and fleshy macroalgae or ‘seaweeds’) through time and space, and investigate how environmental and ecological processes modulate these variations.

Dictyota pfaffii Islas

Dictyota pfaffii Islas

 

To address these issues, we conduct field surveys assessing the abundance of macroalgae and corals and perform experimental manipulations of environmental factors and evaluate the changes in algal growth, population dynamics and community structure.

 

We have found that the abundance of populations and communities of coral reef algae experience important seasonal changes that are related to variations in environmental conditions, particularly temperature. Our lab is currently investigating the dynamics of macroalgae in a number of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay (south Queensland).

 

Current projects

  • Ecological dynamics and coral-algal interactions at high latitude coral reefs. PhD student Patrick Gartrell, Griffith University.
  • Patterns of abundance and recruitment of coralline algae in the Great Barrier Reef. PhD student Alexandra Ordoñez Alvarez, Griffith University.
  • Temporal and spatial dynamics of macroalgal communities in Heron Island, GBR. PhD student Robert Canto, The University of Queensland.
Mean percent cover of Dictyota spp. over time at two sites (mean ± SE, n = 5)

Mean percent cover of Dictyota spp. over time at two sites (mean ± SE, n = 5)

Mean percent cover of crustose algae, fleshy macroalgae and algal turfs over time at two sites (mean ± SE, n = 5)

Mean percent cover of crustose algae, fleshy macroalgae and algal turfs over time at two sites (mean ± SE, n = 5)