Coral reefs have been called an ecological canary in the coalmine due to their sensitivity to a suite of anthropogenic impacts, including overfishing, pollution, acidification, and climate change. These stressors interact in different ways on coral reefs around the world, creating site-specific impacts that erode ecosystem function. While observations of declining coral reef health are widespread, some reefs have fared reasonably well even in the face of environmental disturbance. Increasingly, scientists are pointing to the concept of ecological resilience to explain these different outcomes. Resilience is the ability of a system to either retain or recover to a particular state following a disturbance.
To date, most scientific research on reef resilience has examined single factors, leaving us without the scientific tools to measure coral reef resilience when many stressors affect the reef at the same time. In our research, we are examining how suites of forcings – biological or physical factors that can make an environment more or less hospitable – combine to yield ecological outcomes. We are working closely with on-the-ground managers to turn these findings into information that can be used to evaluate the results of different management actions in a changing climate. This multi-disciplinary approach involves a tight coupling of empirical research, theoretical modeling, and applied conservation and spans multiple disciplines. You can read more about the different components of our work by clicking on the links to the right.