Historical Perspectives in Marine Ecology & Conservation

Friday seminar by John M. Pandolfi (NB: NOTE THE TIME)

Understanding the history of marine ecosystems has become an integral part of testing ecological theory and understanding present ecological effects of environmental change.  Historical approaches in marine ecology can provide: novels ways of testing ecological theory; information on what was natural in the sea to understand the range in variability in ecological states and processes; glimpses into the response of marine ecosystems to past environmental change, especially climate change; and new understanding for conservation strategies.  In coral reefs, ecological studies on limited spatial and temporal scales document intense variation in coral cover, but community structure appears to be persistent over centennial to millennial time scales.  Such persistence is evidence against neutral theory dynamics where demographic stochasticity predicts more open community membership. The persistence of similar structure and it’s recent shift to alternative states means we know what should be conserved, though goals may not translate into targets given political, economic, and other competing interests.  Conservation practice is also informed by an understanding of evolutionary history, as zones of evolutionary novelty may be spatially distinct from those of high biodiversity, or high threats.  Finally, the fossil record provides a rich source of information on response of marine ecosystems to past climate change. Studies on the past response of living species to global warming in the absence of human impacts show less diversity of reef corals in equatorial regions, but, where available substrate occurs, corals have the potential to migrate poleward.  Historical studies thus inform ecological theory, environmental change, and conservation practice.

John M. Pandolfi
Director, Centre for Marine Science
School of Biological Sciences
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
University of Queensland
Brisbane, QLD 4072


Published May 21, 2013 6:34 PM - Last modified Oct. 31, 2018 2:33 PM