Resilience, Ecology and Fisheries

    Coral reefs around the world are under threat from multiple human and natural stress factors such as over-fishing, eutrophication, pollution, and sedimentation, which have been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity over many decades. The sustainability of multispecies coral reef fisheries is a key conservation concern given their economic and ecological importance, the significant dependence of subsistence and artisanal fishers on reef fisheries for their livelihoods, and the considerable threats to coral reef habitats (i.e., coral bleaching and disease, hurricanes, climate change).

    In addition, large-scale coral bleaching has intensified globally, and forecasts of changes in ocean chemistry are expected to lead to reduced rates of reef accretion. While environmental changes are inevitable, reefs will likely adapt rather than disappear entirely, with some coral species showing greater tolerance (or resilience) to climate changes, diseases and bleaching.

    To better understand and respond to threats and changes to the ecology of coral reefs ecosystems and their fisheries, as well as their impacts on reef-dependent people, the National Center for Coral Reef Research (NCORE) at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is adopting an interdisciplinary system-science approach to provide a network of enhanced and improved scientific understanding of the dynamics of coral reef ecosystems. Through the integration of monitoring, modeling, and experimentation, researchers aim to provide a better understanding of the influence of disturbances on coral reef structure and function, and elucidate the potential adaptive mechanisms of coral reef communities that may enable these important ecosystems to persist over time.

Key Questions

 

How much of what kinds of fishing can a portion of a reef tolerate given particular levels of nutrients, under what rates, intensities, and types of disturbances to the corals and how do you manage these stressors?

 

What system science analysis framework can be best employed to describe and measure coral reef resiliency to changes in the environment?

 

What is the ecological link of mesophotic reefs and deep-water corals to shallow water coral reefs and how do they contribute to the resiliency of the global coral reef system?

 

What are the factors results from the loss of symbiotic zooxantheallae and/or a reduction in photosynthetic pigment concentrations in zooxanthellae residing within scleractinian corals?