University of Technology Sydney

91126 Coral Reef Ecosystems

6cp; 4 x 2 hrs (orientation classes, on campus), in weeks prior to the field trip (March/April); availability: enrolment is restricted due to the availability of space at the One Tree Island Research Station and preference is given to final-year students in the Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology
Requisite(s): 91123 Nature and Evolution AND 91121c Aquatic Ecosystems
The lower case 'c' after the subject code indicates that the subject is a corequisite. See definitions for details.


Coral reefs are amongst the most productive, biodiverse and spectacular ecosystems on Earth, sustaining almost half a billion people throughout the tropics and subtropics. However, intensifying localised impacts such as overfishing and pollution combined with accelerating pressures from climate change paint a highly uncertain future for reef ecosystems and the services they provide. Effective management strategies to safeguard reefs therefore rest on understanding how environmental and societal factors shape the form and function of coral ecosystems.

This senior-level field subject considers the central question: what is a healthy reef? The subject explores how physical, chemical and biological processes shape reef ecosystems, from the benthos to fishes, and how societal interactions feed back to alter these processes. Coral reef ecosystems have evolved to persist along an environmental continuum from deep blue waters to shallow turbid systems. This subject explores how coral reef ecosystem diversity and function has evolved across environmental conditions, and therefore question how we can effectively define reefs as ‘pristine’ and ‘healthy’ over space and time. An important focus for this subject is emergent technologies and how they are transforming our ability to assess and describe biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and ultimately provide metrics of ‘reef health’. Addressing these topics provides students with a modern-day toolbox for forward-looking coral reef management strategies.

Typical availability

Autumn session, City campus

Detailed subject description.

Access conditions

Note: The requisite information presented in this subject description covers only academic requisites. Full details of all enforced rules, covering both academic and admission requisites, are available at access conditions and My Student Admin.