The production and maintenance of a complex reef structure supports many critical functions of a healthy coral reef, including habitat provision to marine organisms, dissipation of wave energy and sediment supply to islands. The build-up of reef framework, or a reef’s carbonate budget, is driven by counteracting rates of calcium carbonate production (e.g., coral growth) and breakdown (e.g., bioerosion by grazing fish).
Over the last four years I studied the recovery of reef carbonate budgets following the 2015-2016 coral bleaching event and quantified local rates of coral growth and parrotfish bioerosion.
In collaboration with researchers from Lancaster and Oxford I am now also looking at the effects of seabird-derived nutrients on reef growth and sediment production. Previous research has shown that nutrients from seabird guano boost fish communities and reef recovery around islands with large seabird colonies. I am interested to find out if these benefits propagate to the provision of other functions such as reef accretion and sediment supply, closing the feedback loop from reefs to island building. This will hopefully help encouraging management actions to remove invasive rats and restore seabird populations.
The high rates of coral recruitment and rapid restoration of reef functions we currently observe across the Chagos Archipelago are a very nice surprise and imply that this remote location is showing some resilience, thus far, to ongoing ocean warming
Sentinel Species ResearchImplications of nutrient flow and feedback across the seabird-island-reef system
Coral Reef ResilienceMonitoring Coral Reefs in the Indian Ocean