The influence of local and global stressors on coral reef ecosystems

Vibrant coral reefs are amongst the world’s most diverse and economically important marine ecosystems, but are also imminently threatened by climate change and local threats, including fishing and pollution. Understanding how these threats impact coral reefs, and the capacity for reefs to recover after bleaching events is critically important. This project will focus on Kiritimati (Christmas Island), a ‘natural laboratory’ in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which experienced extensive coral bleaching during a recent intense heat wave. We will use underwater surveys and videos, along with novel acoustic and imagery methods, to quantify how coral and fish communities, as well as the structure of the reef habitat itself, have changed in the four years following the event. We will also examine if underwater acoustics can be used to assess reef health. This information will inform World Wildlife Fund’s Coral Reef High Impact Initiative’s efforts to develop solutions for coral reef conservation.

Intern: 
Sean Dimoff
Kristina Tietjen
Faculty Supervisor: 
Julia Baum
Province: 
British Columbia
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