Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Room F 8.07b
Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels | Belgium


Reef building corals are important ecosystem engineers which provide the basis for one of the most productive and diverse marine ecosystems. However, coral reef ecosystems suffer from overexploitation, pollution, as well as sedimentation, and face global scale losses through increasing sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) could increase coral reef resilience, but in order to design and manage MPAs knowledge on the connectivity of the reefs is essential. Connectivity between reefs determines gene flow, genetic diversity, and genetic structure of populations, as well as the ability of coral reefs to persist and recover from current stressors, and to adapt to future climate change.

As corals are sessile, exchange among populations is facilitated by dispersal of larvae and depends on the reproductive output, planktonic larval duration (PLD), and larval behaviour, as well as habitat suitability, ocean currents, and oceanographic barriers. Broadcast spawners with long PLD generally show lower genetic subdivision than brooders with short PLD, as PLD is positively correlated with dispersal distance.

In my research I focus on the connectivity of stony corals in the Indo-Pacific and specifically the role of reproduction strategies and oceanographic barriers in coral dispersal.  

Other research interests include the physiology of corals to understand their ecology and resilience to climate change.

Van Der Ven, R., Triest, L., De Ryck, D., Mwaura, J. M., Mohammed, M. S. & Kochzius, M. (2015). Population genetic structure of the stony coral Acropora tenuis shows high but variable connectivity in East Africa. Journal of Biogeography 43, 3, p. 510-519 9 p.