Plant Biology

Postgraduate research profiles


Luke Thomas

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 8118


Start date

Mar 2012

Submission date

Sep 2015

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas profile photo


Resilience of a High Latitude Coral Reef System


Over the past several decades the health of coral reefs worldwide has deteriorated dramatically. Recently, threats associated with climate change are regarded as the most destructive forces contributing to this demise. The ability of coral systems to buffer against these stressors is imperative for long term survival in a stochastic environment.

The main objective of my thesis is to characterize resilience of the corals at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (HAI: the southernmost coral reef system in the Indian Ocean) to thermal anomalies. This will be done through the application of molecular techniques.

The first section will seek to understand the recovery potential of the HAI coral reefs: Is larval recruitment from the north a likely mechanism that will maintain healthy populations if local sources are compromised?

The second section will investigate the adaptability of corals to thermal stress by establishing baseline information on Symbiodinium endemicity and diversity.

Why my research is important

Understanding how the Abrolhos Islands will respond to stressors is fundamental to establishing appropriate management strategies to help remediate those effects into the future. The issue of resilience and vulnerability to disturbance is further complicated when dealing with high latitude reef systems because these reefs are marginal systems living in sub-optimal conditions at the limit of their latitudinal distribution and already exposed to a variety of physical stressors that limit growth, reproduction and population size. This ultimately affects the maintenance of healthy coral populations and the regenerative ability of the system.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety Net Top Up
  • UWA Establishment Award
  • Marine Biodiversity NERP