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Charli Mortimer

Ongoing at Victoria University of Wellington

Charli is based at Victoria University of Wellington and is completing her PhD in Indonesia investigating the trophic consequences of a shift towards sponge-dominated reefs. The degradation of coral reefs systems is leading to a rise shifts in dominance towards other benthic organisms. In Indonesia, the Sampela reef system has seen a decline in hard corals and a comparative increase in sponge densities over the last decade. Previous research in the area has focused the environmental drivers responsible for the regime shift but has paid little attention to how these changes will impact the trophic system. This research project will address these impacts by using stable isotope analysis and trophic modelling to compare food web structure and energy pathways on a sponge-dominated reef and a coral- dominated reef. Considering that almost 70-80% of reefs are found in developing countries with communities whose livelihoods are derived directly on their resources, it is critical that we address how regime shifts can alter the trophic structure of tropical reef systems in order to understand the life that can be supported by a sponge-dominated reef system.

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