Our research is on nutrient cycling and primary production in tropical marine ecosystems and stressors that influence tropical seagrass, mangrove and algal communities. We are currently focused on climate change effects, including elevated temperature, salinity and pCO2, termed “ocean acidification”, on marine plant and macroalgal communities. We hypothesize that ocean acidification and elevated temperature affect photosynthesis, growth and calcification in tropical reef macroalgae with far-reaching ecological consequences. However, diverse pathways of inorganic carbon acquisition for photosynthesis and mechanisms of calcification may provide resistance to elevated ocean pCO2 in calcifying macroalgae. In addition, we are elucidating mechanisms causing seagrass mortality in Florida Bay, relevant to lagoons and estuaries world-wide.
Our research approach is to examine stress responses from the physiological and ecological scale, consider species life history, and focus on ecosystem-level indicators of stress, such as hypoxia and eutrophication. We are also interested in biogeochemical changes that can destabilize foundation plant communities and thereby influence the sustainability of marine ecosystems. The majority of our work is in shallow tropical carbonate environments (lagoons and reefs) of South Florida, The Bahamas and wider Caribbean. We typically take an experimental approach to examine alternative hypotheses in mesocosms and field settings.