Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 1:55 PM

SYMP 14-2: Triple play: settlement, competition, and disturbance in marine communities

Michael J. Keough, University of Melbourne


How has Joe Connell’s work influenced current marine ecologists, particularly those working on rocky reefs?


Simple analysis of citation patterns reveals strong influences in three processes, each of which has seen a surge in work: natural disturbance, the classic studies of competition and predation in the rocky intertidal, and a substantial contribution to the debate about supply-side processes. The legacy has been very different in each of these cases, but there has also been one common theme to this work. Connell’s early work on competition between barnacles, and subsequently the impact of predatory snails, became a widely used textbook example, but its greatest influence in marine ecology was to highlight the increased strength of inference resulting from experimental approaches. Experimental approaches became a mantra for marine ecologists, particularly those working in the intertidal, and this has spawned a rich literature on experimental design and data analysis. At the same time, the ongoing series of papers on the ecology of reef corals has emphasised the roles of disturbance, but in this case there has been a realisation that large disturbances are not very amenable to experimentation, as they require long-term and large-scale work. Importantly, long-term observations often change some conclusions of short-term experiments, arguing for a pluralistic approach. The third research area, supply-side ecology, has arguably been less influential, as it was a contribution to an already burgeoning area of study. Larval supply is, however, a theme through the suite of papers, being fundamental to models of succession, providing a basis for recovery from disturbance, and supplying the future competitors.