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Decision support tools for visualising coral reef futures at regional scales


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Melbourne-Thomas, J 2010 , 'Decision support tools for visualising coral reef futures at regional scales', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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 scientic 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
eectiveness 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 conrms 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
dierent species, community structure, diversity patterns and threatening processes compared
with the Meso-American system { demonstrates that CORSET is portable between dissimilar
reef systems in dierent 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 rst regional-scale simulation model for coral reef ecosystems
that has demonstrated utility for reef systems in dierent 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 Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Melbourne-Thomas, J
Keywords: ecosystem model, decision support tool, coral reefs, management, connectivity, social-ecological systems
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