Project Details


When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines it had sustained winds of 305 to 315 kph and was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Storms are one of the most important disturbances to coral reef ecosystems. Previous research has primarily emphasized that habitat recovery is important for the recovery of reef fish communities after disturbance. We understand little, however, about the role of larval dispersal in mediating species responses to disturbance. Reef fish function as metapopulations connected by larval dispersal among reefs, and larval connectivity is therefore a critical process for their dynamics. A field site directly in Typhoon Haiyan's path provides an ideal opportunity to address the role of larval dispersal during recovery. Over the course of four field seasons (2008 to 2013), nearly two thousand clownfish were surveyed along 20km of coastline. Clownfish possess the same basic life history as most reef fish (sedentary adults and pelagic larvae), but are sufficiently rare and visible that genetic parentage methods can be used to follow larval dispersal. This study site is therefore a unique location in which to understand the metapopulation impacts of a massive storm. This project will focus on three hypotheses: 1) Habitat destruction determines the short-term impacts of storms disturbance, 2) Metapopulation processes shape recolonization after disturbance, and 3) Disturbance allows rare competitors to increase in abundance. The project will address these questions with a combination of fixed and random transects to assess reef habitat and reef fish abundance and diversity, as well as detailed, spatially explicit surveys of anemones and clownfish. Genetic mark-recapture and parentage methods with yellowtail clownfish will pinpoint the origin of new recruits that recolonize the reef post-typhoon.Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse and economically important ecosystems on earth, providing food, coastal protection, tourism, and medical compounds for millions of people around the world. In order to guide conservation efforts, we need to understand the processes that influence their resilience to large-scale disturbance. This project will compliment other international conservation and research efforts and the lessons learned from this research will also be communicated to local decision-makers. The principal investigator will also prepare a presentation on this research for the Rutgers' Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences STEM Educator Series. The program provides professional development training to middle- and high-school teachers by combining current research with lesson plans designed around real world data.
Effective start/end date3/15/142/28/15


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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