Restoration ecology and understanding drivers of coral reef resilience in French Polynesia.
Bruce Kendall, Deron Burkepile
Dissertation Title & Abstract
Post-disturbance Dynamics of Branching Corals and Their Predators
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse, valuable, and impacted ecosystems on the planet. Disturbances that kill coral, the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems, are becoming more frequent and more severe, thereby threatening the persistence of global reefs which provide food, jobs, and coastal protection for over one billion people worldwide. However, even the most extreme disturbances seldom cause total mortality of corals, and the spatial variability of surviving coral has consequences for how the rest of the ecosystem responds. In my dissertation work, I sought to understand 1) how and where branching corals evaded mortality during a severe marine heatwave, 2) the extent to which coral predators can amplify the impact of disturbance on coral through species interactions, and 3) whether and how the effects disturbance-driven mortality of branching coral cascaded through the ecosystem and impacted coral predators that vary in their dependency on coral as a food source. My work provides insight into the complex and nuanced relationship between coral and coral predators and improves our ability to understand and predict both how different disturbances impact coral reef ecosystem dynamics.
MESM, Bren School, UC Santa Barbara
BS, Aquatic Biology, UC Santa Barbara