JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY
Research Field: Marine Ecology
Coral reefs, despite covering less than 2% of the ocean floor, are one of the world’s
most biodiverse, productive and valuable ecosystems. However, a warming ocean from
climate change, declining water quality, and pollution are killing corals, making way for
overgrowth by seaweeds.
Professor Hoey’s research is about discovering which fish perform critical seaweed
removal jobs on the reef, helping new corals to grow and the reefs to recover. His
findings include that grazing and browsing fishes avoid feeding within and in the
proximity of dense macroalgae beds, which may lead to gradual expansion of
macroalgae on coral reefs. His current research has discovered that, macroalgal-
dominated habitats are extremely resilient to cyclones and periods of elevated
temperature and recover to pre-disturbance levels within 12 months, compared to an
estimated 10–15 years for coral-dominated reefs.
Management strategies therefore need to look beyond the preservation of biodiversity
and focus on the maintenance of ecosystem processes and key species.