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Decision Support Tools for Visualising Coral Reef Futures at Regional Scales


Melbourne-Thomas, J, Decision Support Tools for Visualising Coral Reef Futures at Regional Scales (2010) [PhD]


Coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services that support the livelihoods of millions of people in coastal populations around the globe. However, human activities have severely degraded a large number of reefs worldwide, and reef ecosystem function is under continuing threat from anthropogenic impacts. Novel management approaches are required to sustain ecosystem function and there is a need for better scientific tools to inform coordinated management strategies for coral reefs over appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Simulation models are useful tools for projecting future responses of reef systems to multiple threats and can assist in evaluating the effectiveness of alternative management actions. This thesis presents a generic model framework that can be applied to tropical coral reef systems anywhere in the world. The model, CORSET (Coral Reef Scenario Evaluation Tool) uses dynamic equations to capture local-scale ecological processes on individual reefs. These reefs are connected at regional scales through ocean transport of larval propagules. CORSET is designed as a decision support tool for visualising reef futures over several decades at regional scales in the order of 102 – 103 km. The test case for CORSET is the Meso-American Reef system in the western Caribbean. Validation and sensitivity analysis for this test case confirms that the model is able to realistically capture regional-scale reef dynamics over time series of 30-100 years. A separate, validated version of the model for coral reefs in the Philippines region of the South China Sea – which has very different species, community structure, diversity patterns and threatening processes compared with the Meso-American system – demonstrates that CORSET is portable between dissimilar reef systems in different locations. Scenario analysis for these two reef systems demonstrates how CORSET can be applied to examine potential reef futures under alternative assumptions about future threats and management actions. Finally, CORSET is integrated with a dynamic socioeconomic model to produce a coupled biophysical-socioeconomic model system for reefs in the Mexican Caribbean. CORSET is the first regional-scale simulation model for coral reef ecosystems that has demonstrated utility for reef systems in different geographic regions. The model will be made generally available for use by researchers and decision makers through a web portal in the near future.

Item Details

Item Type:PhD
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Melbourne-Thomas, J (Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas)
ID Code:73011
Year Published:2010
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2011-09-06
Last Modified:2011-09-06

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