Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Biological Sciences

Abstract

Floating algal rafts provide key habitat in the pelagic environment by providing a substratum for attachment, a food source and a potential mode of dispersal. However, along the eastern Australian coastline urbanization and climate change are beginning to threaten the availability of rafts. To date, little is known about rafting invertebrate communities along this coastline and how they may be impacted by a changing future ocean.

In this study, I used a combination of lab, field and modelling studies to determine the role of algal rafts in the pelagic environment as well as how climate change will impact the availability of this key habitat. I sought to address five key unknowns about this habitat along the New South Wales coastline. First, determine the key raft-forming species of algae along the New South Wales coastline, survey if the distribution of these rafts is homogeneous even in the Sydney region, identify the species found on rafts and explore the potential impacts of future warmer sea surface temperatures on this habitat. Finally, I use a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to model the factors which influence raft abundance to determine how climate change will influence its abundance in a future ocean.

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