Dr Bayden D. Russell
Wherever humans exist, they have impacts on the environment. This is a reality of life. We use resources and create waste. My research is concerned with not only what these impacts are but also what we can do about them to ensure the future of marine ecosystems. My current projects fall into three broad categories:
1. Combined human impacts
Everyone has heard of climate change - how could you not have? Most people have an opinion on the causes and impacts of climate change, but few have thought about the reality. I am particularly interested in how changing climatic conditions, such as increasing CO2, temperature and ocean acidification, will combine with local pollution to damage marine ecosystems. From kelp forests to coral reefs, I like to figure out the mechanisms at play.
2. "Ecological realism"
OK, so "ecological realism" is overstating the case just a little, but it illustrates my case. The problem with research into climate change is that we are having a very hard time identifying what the "real" effects will be. Laboratory experiments are limited because while they can control conditions with a high degree of precision, they lack multiple interactions that occur in nature. Conversely, the increasing use of volcanic CO2 seeps as "natural experiments" is exciting in that they include these ecosystem interactions, but they are limited because the pH and temperature gradients are steeper than we will see in a climate change scenario.
So, what do we do? I'm currently combining both to take advantage of their respective strengths while trying to account for their weaknesses. Stay posted as the first results start to come through!
Volcanic seep site in Papua New Guinea - you can see the bubbles in the foreground.
A healthy reef away from the seeps.
3. Amelioration of human impacts
Identifying how we humans disrupt ecosystems is just the first step. The ultimate goal of this research is to figure out what we can do. The exciting thing is that it seems we can improve the situation. Recent experiments by me and Laura Falkenberg show that it may be possible to limit the impact of climate near our coastal cities by reducing the amount of local pollution, such as wastewater discharge. Alternatively, increasing metabolism of invertebrates may mean that they consume the "weedy species" driving ecosytem change, as Owen Burnell and Nicole Mertens are finding out.
Importantly though, all of this research has highlighted that timing matters - we have to start now because it will be too late once climate change has manifested. Thankfully, our local managers are listening to this message. Here in South Australia the government is undergoing massive wastewater treatment plant upgrades in addition to piping wastewater inland and recycling it for use in industry!
I have a dynamic lab with a number of students, and am always happy to discuss potential projects with anyone who is interested in doing their Honours, Masters or Ph.D. If you are interested by anything in what I've said, come and chat to me!
Selected recent papers:
- Ghedini G, Russell BD, Connell SD (2015) Trophic compensation reinforces resistance: herbivory absorbs the increasing effects of compounded disturbances. Ecology Letters, doi: 10.1111/ele.12405.
- Burnell OW, Connell SD, Irving AD, Watling JR, Russell BD (2014) Contemporary reliance on bicarbonate acquisition predicts increased growth of seagrass Amphibolis antarctica in a high CO2 world. Conservation physiology, 2, doi:10.1093/conphys/cou052.
- Helmuth B, Russell BD, Connell SD, Dong Y, Harley CDG, Lima FP, Sarà G, Williams GA, Mieszkowska N (2014) Beyond long-term averages: making biological sense of a changing world. Climate Change Responses, 1, 6.
- Russell BD, Connell SD, Findlay HS, Tait K, Widdicombe S, Mieszkowska N (2013) Ocean acidification and rising temperatures may increase biofilm primary productivity but decrease grazer consumption: evidence from a mesocosm experiment. Phil Trans Royal Soc B, 368, 20120438
- Nash MC, Opdyke BN, Troitzsch U, Russell BD, Adey WH, Kato A, Diaz-Pulido G, Brent C, Gardner M, Prichard J and Kline DI (2013) Dolomite rich coral reef coralline algae resist dissolution in acidified conditions. Nature Climate Change, 3, 268-272.
- Falkenberg LJ, Russell BD, Connell SD (2013) Contrasting resource limitations between competing marine primary producers: implications for associated communities under enriched CO2 and nutrient regimes. Oecologia, 172: 575-583
- Connell SD, Kroeker, KJ, Fabricius KE, Kline DI, Russell BD (2013) The other ocean acidification problem: CO2 as resource among competitors for ecosystem dominance. Phil Trans Royal Soc B, 368, 20120442.
- Falkenberg LJ, Connell SD, Russell BD (2013) Disrupting the effects of synergies among stressors: improved water quality dampens the effects of future CO2 on a marine habitat. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50: 51-58.
- Russell BD, Connell SD, Mellin C, Brook BW, Burnell OW, Fordham DA (2012) Predicting the distribution of commercially viable invertebrate stocks under future climate. PLoS One, 7, e46554.
- Johnson VR, Russell BD, Fabricius KE, Brownlee C, Hall-Spencer JM (2012) Temperate and tropical brown macroalgae thrive, despite decalcification, along natural CO2 gradients. Global Change Biology, 18, 2792–2803.
- Kline DI, Teneva L, Schneider K, Miard T, Chai A, Marker M, Headley K, Opdyke B, Nash MC, Valetich M, Caves JK, Russell BD, et al. (2012) A short-term in situ CO2 enrichment experiment on Heron Island (GBR). Scientific Reports, 2 (413), 1-9.
- Wernberg T, Russell BD, Thomsen MS, Gurgel CFD, Bradshaw CJA, Poloczanska ES, Connell SD (2011) Seaweeds in mass retreat from ocean warming. Current Biology, 21: 1828-1832.
- Russell BD, Harley CDG, Wernberg T, Mieszkowska N, Wddicombe S, Hall-Spencer JM, Connell SD (2011) Predicting ecosystem shifts requires new approaches that integrate the effects of climate change across entire systems. Biology Letters, 8:164-166
- Russell BD, Connell SD (2010) Honing the geoengineering strategy. Science 327:144-145
- Connell SD, Russell BD (2010) The direct effects of increasing CO2 and temperature on non-calcifying organisms: increasing the potential for phase shifts in kelp forests. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 1409-1415.
- Russell BD, Connell SD (2009) Eutrophication science: moving into the future. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24: 527-528
- Russell BD, Thompson J, Falkenberg LJ, Connell SD (2009) Synergistic effects of climate change and local stressors: CO2 and nutrient driven change in subtidal rocky habitats. Global Change Biology 15: 2153-2162
- Gorman D, Russell BD, Connell SD (2009) Land-to-sea connectivity: linking human-derived terrestrial subsidies to subtidal habitat-change on open rocky coasts. Ecological Applications 15: 1114-1126
In my research I've also been lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing scientists. Here are just a few:
Assoc. Prof. Chris Harley, University of British Columbia, Cananda.
Prof. Brian Helmuth, Northeastern University, USA.
Dr Nova Mieszkowska, Marine Biological Association of the UK.
Prof. Yunwei Dong, Xiamen University, China.
Assoc. Prof. Thomas Wernberg, University of Western Australia.
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