17: Modelling Resilience and Phase Shifts in Coral Reefs

MCED Chapter 17


Modelling Resilience and Phase Shifts in Coral Reefs: Application of Different Modelling Approaches


Andreas Kubicek & Esther Borell

Abstract (from the book)

Tropical coral reefs are among the most diverse habitats with great ecological and economic importance. These highly dynamic ecosystems are frequently subject to natural disturbance events (e.g. hurricanes) which can lead to dramatic changes in reef properties if the systems’ resilience is already reduced by anthropogenic impacts such as increased levels of nutrients or over-fishing. Due to their high complexity many relations in coral reef dynamics are still poorly understood and ecological modelling becomes increasingly prominent as a tool to close these knowledge gaps. This article gives an overview on different modelling techniques that address the investigation of coral reef dynamics and discusses advantages and disadvantages of respective applications.

Further Reading
(from MCED and additional recommendations)

  • Holling CS (1973) Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4:1–23

  • Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystroem M, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate Change, Human Impacts, and the Resilience of Coral Reefs. Science 301:929–933

  • Scheffer M, Carpenter SR (2003) Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: linking theory to observation. TREE 18: 648–656

    Edwards HJ, Elliott IA, Eakin CM, Irikawa A, Madin JS, McField M, Morgan JA, van Woesik R, Mumby PJ (2010) How much time can herbivore protection buy for coral reefs under realistic regimes of hurricanes and coral bleaching? Global Change Biology: doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02366.x

Links to models related to coral reefs

  • Reef Scenarios (https://reefscenarios.org)
    A site that provides access to the biophysical coral reef systems model CORSET (Coral Reef Scenario Evaluation Tool), aiming to investigate regional coral reef trajectories within a larger scale ecosystems network.
  • Simulating Coral Reef Evolution (http://vets.ucar.edu/vg/CoralReef/index.shtml)
    A rather simple coral reef model that simulates the probability of coral reef evolution in dependence of various biogeophysical and -chemical factors.

General Webpages on
Coral Reef Systems

  • Resilience Alliance (http://www.resalliance.org/)
    An organisation that combines knowledge and information on coral reef resilience of multiple disciplines. Their key goal is the analysis of coral reefs as complex adaptive systems in order to enhance management and policy enforcement of these unique ecosystems.
  • Reef Base (http://www.reefbase.org/)
    A website where data, information, and knowledge on coral reef resources is gathered and made available to scientists, managers, and other people who take interest in the topic