My research is focused on improving assessments of coral reef vulnerability to climate change. The recent IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 °C report emphasises the severely detrimental impact of climate change on tropical coral reefs which are at risk of declining by 90-99%. Prioritising the protection of low vulnerability sites may enhance the success of conservation initiatives but only if estimates of future vulnerability prove to be correct.
I am developing coral reef vulnerability assessments in the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle region; a global hotspot for marine biodiversity. The project adopts an interdisciplinary approach, combining high resolution climate projections with ecological survey data to project ecosystem responses to site-specific climate change. This involves the simulation and downscaling of two key climate variables (sea surface temperature and storms), as well as the incorporation of numerous factors affecting ecological sensitivity such as the role of adjacent ecosystems, impact of local disturbances and species’ adaptive capacity. Projecting community-level changes in response to multiple, local-scale climate disturbances may provide a more comprehensive view of coral reef futures. The assessment will identify the factors that reduce vulnerability to climate change and provide a platform on which to develop conservation goals that protect these attributes.