The tropicalisation of Jurien Bay, Western Australia, and the implications for temperate benthic communities (Masters 2019)
My research is focusing on the tropicalisation of the coast of Western Australia. Our coastline here has a rate of ocean warming exceeding that of the global average, and it experienced a significant marine heatwave in 2011. This, in conjunction with its unusual poleward flowing eastern boundary current, the Leeuwin Current, is driving range shifts of tropical species and placing heat stress on the temperate ecosystem. Of particular concern are the intrusions of tropical herbivorous fishes that are known for their intense consumption of benthic substrate. The resilience of the highly productive kelp species of this temperate ecosystem, Ecklonia radiata, has weakened and canopy cover losses have been observed as a result of increased ocean temperatures and tropicalised fish communities. However, current knowledge is limited on how resilient these tropicalised communities will be under returning normal temperate conditions. I will be using Stereo-DOVs, benthic quadrats and data of oceanic conditions such as temperature and light availability from 2016-2019, to quantify the level of tropicalisation and herbivory pressure present at Jurien Bay, Western Australia.
Supervisors: Thomas Wernberg, Sahira Bell
2017: B.Sc. (Environmental Science & Marine Science), University of Western Australia, Australia.
2018: Grant winner, Keith Sheard Travel Award.