Jamie Johnson

Discipline: Geography

Project Summary

Recent ecological and geological research has shown very clearly the potential for significant reef-building to occur in environments dominated by high rates of terrestrial sediment input and high turbidity, conditions often thought to be detrimental to coral reef development. In particular, recent research, undertaken within the nearshore turbid-zone environments of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR), has clearly demonstrated: i) that corals are able to colonise, and then establish reefs, above a wide range of non-lithified (non-carbonate) substrates; and ii) that once established, reefs in these environments can accrete rapidly, leading to the development of localised, but ecologically important, sites of reef development. In addition, however, it has also been shown that fine-grained terrigenous sediment accumulation is an integral aspect of reef-building in these environments. Early reef-building phases are often terrigenous sediment dominated. Recent models thus hypothesise that terrigenous sediment infilling must be very rapid during the early phases of reef accretion and that differences in sedimentation rates (between depth and environment) may be reflected by consistent changes in coral assemblage development.

My PhD studentship, which is part of a larger NERC funded research project in collaboration with James Cook University (Australia) and the Natural History Museum (London) will test these ideas through a more comprehensive assessment of reef-building processes for reefs that presently exist across a spectrum of reef-building evolutionary stages.

Supervisory Team

Wider Research Interests

  • Climate and environmental change
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Palaeoecology
  • Tropical coastal ecology (particularly relating to foraminifera, hard corals and mangroves)


Authored Publications/Reports

JA Johnson, CT Perry, SG Smithers, KM Morgan, N Santodomingo & KG Johnson (2017) Palaeoecological records of coral community development on a turbid, nearshore reef complex: baselines for assessing ecological change, Coral Reefs, DOI: 10.1007/s00338-017-1561-1

KM Morgan, CT Perry, SG Smithers, JA Johnson & JJ Daniell (2016) Evidence of extensive reef development and high coral cover in nearshore environments: implications for understanding coral adaptation in turbid settings, Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep29616

KM Morgan, CT Perry, SG Smithers, JA Johnson & P Gulliver (2016) Transitions in coral reef accretion rates linked to intrinsic ecological shifts on turbid-zone nearshore reefs, Geology, DOI: 10.1130/G38610.1

KM Morgan, CT Perry, JA Johnson, SG Smithers (2017) Nearshore turbid-zone corals exhibit high bleaching tolerance on the Great Barrier Reef following the 2016 ocean warming event, Frontiers in Marine Biology