Environment Institute


Scientists have identified the key drivers of why some species are absent from reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and which species are most vulnerable. Incorporating this knowledge in to conservation strategies will help to reduce human impact on species loss.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the findings are the result of an international collaboration involving a large team of scientists including from the University of Adelaide. Together they produced one of the world’s most extensive datasets of reef fishes. By analysing almost 10,000 records from more than 900 locations, the team was able to identify specific types of fishes that are most vulnerable to human impacts and climate change.

“Our analysis of 241 fish species showed that larger-bodied fish, especially those with smaller geographic ranges are especially vulnerable,” explains lead author Dr Camille Mellin, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. “In fact, these species are 67% less likely to occur where human impact and temperature seasonality exceed critical thresholds.

“So, for example, these types of fish actually occur less commonly on reefs in the Coral Triangle (between the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), which is surprising given that this is a well-known marine biodiversity hotspot.

“In the Coral Triangle, coral reefs tend to be highly affected by human activity, such as fishing and urban development, in contrast to the less-impacted reefs in New Caledonia or on the Great Barrier Reef that tend to host more of these large, small-ranging fish species.”

Although these fish represent only 7% of all the species the team examined, they often provide unique and important functions on the reef.

“The greater sensitivity of these larger-bodied, small-ranging reef fishes to human pressure could have serious consequences for reef ecosystems if they are lost,” says project leader Dr Julian Caley from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

These findings highlight the need to focus on these at-risk species, and pay particular attention to management of those factors that make them vulnerable.

(Image source: bates.edu)

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The spread of invasive weeds and climate change are threatening South Australia’s plant biodiversity.

Researchers from the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, in partnership with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources embarked on a comprehensive study into South Australia’s plant species, identifying six ‘hot spots’ of plant biodiversity across the state.

It is hoped that this information will help government and ecologists maintain and restore high levels of diversity in these landscapes into the future.

Radio Adelaide’s Sarah Martin spoke with Dr Greg Guerin from TERN about his plant biodiversity research.

Listen to the full interview.

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Research scientists, Heidi Alleway, Professor Bronwyn Gillanders and Professor Sean Connell from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute have found that the colonisation of Australia contributed to an overexploitation of inland fisheries species.

Their paper entitled, ” ‘Neo-Europe’ and its ecological consequences: the example of systematic degradation in Australia’s inland fisheries,” published in Biology Letters, compared fish market records from 1900-1946 against modern statistics of 1987-2011, and found that previously common native inland species have now deteriorated to the point that fishing is now limited, and conservation regulations exist.

This pattern of demand driving changes from fresh water to marine fisheries also occurred in Europe, and further reinforces the proposition that this pattern was based on societal expectations. Also with European settlement came the introduction of non-native fish, which also led to the overexploitation and degredation of native inland fisheries species in Australia.

These findings highlight that the outcomes shown in other European settled countries such as Canada and the US could have predicted the consequence of neo-European colonisation to Australia’s ecosystem.

(Image source: fishesofaustralia.net.au)

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New research led by the University of Adelaide has found no relationship between sixteen megafauna extinctions in Australia and past climate change, suggesting humans were having negative impacts on the ecosystem as long as 55,000 years ago. In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Frédérik Saltré, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, and colleagues […]

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Four members of the University of Adelaide community; a pioneering fertility surgeon, a wildlife biologist, a snakebite expert and a law reformer, have been awarded in this year’s Australia Day honours. Associate Professor Ossie Petrucco received an AM for significant service to medicine and education in the field of obstetrics, human reproduction and child health. […]

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What are gut microbiomes, and why should they matter to you? Dr Laura Weyrich, from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), spoke with The Wire about why bacteria is so important to our health, and whether new diet trends are really the healthy options we think they are. Listen to Dr Weyrich’s full […]

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New research involving the University of Adelaide has revealed how different butterfly species in the Amazon rainforest came to mimic one another and share identical brightly coloured patterns on their wings. Published in the journal PLoS Biology, the team of researchers from the University of Adelaide and the University of Cambridge, sequenced the genes of […]

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Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, Professor Sean Connell, Tullio Rossi and Jennifer Pistevos from the University of Adelaide were involved in an article published in the journal Biology Letters, entitled, “Lost at sea: ocean acidification undermines larval fish orientation via altered hearing and marine soundscape modification.” Their research highlights future complications for fish due to stresses […]

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The rise of animal life has fascinated humanity for centuries, yet its exact origins remain controversial. Could fossils being unearthed at Kangaroo Island’s internationally significant Emu Bay Shale help to finally resolve the debate? Attend Research Tuesdays free public lecture to find out more. When: Tuesday 9 February, 2016 5:30-6:30pm Where: The Braggs Lecture Theatre, […]

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Professor Bob Hill was recently interviewed by the Adelaidean about his research into the interaction of climate change and botany. Research into how our vegetation has evolved as a result of fire in our landscape, and fossil records, are giving us the clues to learn more about climate change. In an effort to understand how climate […]

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