Stephen E Swearer

Stephen E Swearer
University of Melbourne | MSD · School of BioSciences

PhD

About

230
Publications
43,891
Reads
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6,953
Citations
Introduction
I am a Professor of marine biology at the University of Melbourne. At heart I am a larval fish biologist, with a keen interest in understanding how ecological processes that occur in early life influence dispersal and the dynamics of marine populations. My research has recently taken a more applied focus by developing trans-disciplinary approaches for addressing environmental impacts in coastal marine ecosystems, in order to inform better water, pollution, and fisheries management policies.
Additional affiliations
January 2004 - present
Victoria University of Wellington
Description
  • Collaboration with Jeff Shima on population dynamics of temperate reef fishes
January 2001 - present
University of Melbourne
Description
  • Early life-history of fishes, fish and fisheries ecology, resilience of temperate marine ecosystems
Education
September 1992 - January 2001
University of California, Santa Barbara
Field of study
  • Biological Sciences
September 1987 - May 1991
Brown University
Field of study
  • Aquatic Biology

Publications

Publications (230)
Article
Full-text available
The success of oyster reef restoration can be enhanced by data on the distribution of remnant populations to inform the selection of suitable restoration locations. A quantitative polymerase chain reaction‐based environmental DNA (eDNA) assay was designed to provide distribution data for the oyster, Ostrea angasi, whose reefs are functionally extin...
Technical Report
Full-text available
1) Large scale and coordinated restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems will benefit our natural assets and improve our capability to mitigate and adapt to climate change, while also generating jobs and providing communities with economic and social benefits. 2) Scaling up restoration requires a national scale science-based plan adopted at stat...
Article
Atoll societies have adapted their environments and social systems for thousands of years, but the rapid pace of climate change may bring conditions that exceed their adaptive capacities. There is growing interest in the use of ‘nature-based solutions' to facilitate the continuation of dignified and meaningful lives on atolls through a changing cli...
Article
Full-text available
Terrestrial, marine and freshwater realms are inherently linked through ecological, biogeochemical and/or physical processes. An understanding of these connections is critical to optimise management strategies and ensure the ongoing resilience of ecosystems. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a global stressor that can profoundly affect a wide ran...
Article
Coastal flooding and erosion cause significant social and economic impacts, globally. There is a growing interest in using natural habitats such as mangroves to defend coastlines. The protective services of mangroves, however, have not been assessed in the same rigorous engineering and socio-economic terms as rock revetments, and therefore are ofte...
Preprint
Terrestrial, marine, and freshwater realms are inherently linked through ecological, biogeochemical and/or physical processes. An understanding of these connections is critical to optimise management strategies and ensure the ongoing resilience of ecosystems. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a global stressor that can profoundly affect a wide ra...
Article
The lunar cycle drives variation in nocturnal brightness. For the epipelagic larvae of coral reef organisms, nocturnal illumination may have widespread and underappreciated consequences. At sea, the onset of darkness coincides with an influx of mesopelagic organisms to shallow water (i.e. 'diel vertical migrants') that include predators (e.g. lante...
Article
There is growing demand for novel coastal protection approaches that also provide co-benefits such as enhanced biodiversity. Rock-fillets, which are used to stabilise eroding banks in estuaries, can be colonised by mangroves, and may provide habitat for estuarine fauna. However, it is unknown whether hybrid mangrove/rock-fillet habitats are functio...
Article
All of the marine environments have been found to be affected by anthropogenic impacts with the sprawl of marine infrastructure being one of the most extreme factors modifying habitats. Artificial reefs (ARs) are a common type of these infrastructures, that are frequently used for fisheries management, species conservation and habitat restoration....
Article
Blue carbon ecosystems (BCEs), such as mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses, are attracting interest for their potential to mitigate climate change arising from their high rates of carbon accumulation and the significant carbon stocks in their sediments. However, current sediment carbon sampling methods present a mixture of approaches adopted f...
Preprint
Full-text available
Terrestrial, marine, and freshwater realms are inherently linked through ecological, biogeochemical and/or physical processes. An understanding of these connections is critical to optimise management strategies and ensure the ongoing resilience of ecosystems. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a global stressor that can profoundly affect a wide ra...
Article
Full-text available
• Dispersal is a critically important process that dictates population persistence, gene flow, and evolutionary potential, and is an essential element for identifying species conservation risks. This study aims to investigate the contributions of dispersal syndromes and hydrographic barriers on patterns of population connectivity and genetic struct...
Article
In the effort to increase the commercial value of urchin gonads produced via roe enhancement aquaculture, a variety of formulated feeds have been tested to increase gonad production and improve colour and taste. The addition of dried algal supplements to formulated feeds can further enhance gonad quality, but the level of improvement is highly vari...
Article
Full-text available
Human-induced environmental changes are accelerating biodiversity loss. Identifying which life-history traits increase extinction risk is important to inform proactive conservation. While geographically or numerically rare species are typically more vulnerable, ecological specialization may also increase extinction risk particularly when associated...
Article
Kelp beds are a defining feature of temperate reefs worldwide, playing a fundamental role as ecosystem engineers and primary producers. Overgrazing by the native sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma has driven a phase shift from kelp beds of Ecklonia radiata to barrens across much of Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Here we present the results of a tra...
Article
Kelps are ecosystem engineers, which collectively form forests that provide a variety of important ecosystem services for humans and other organisms. Kelp forests are threatened by multiple local and global stressors, one of the most notable is herbivory. Overabundant sea; urchins can consume kelp, leading to a phase shift from productive forests t...
Article
Full-text available
Artificial light at night (ALAN) is an increasing anthropogenic pollutant, closely associated with human population density, and now well recognized in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. However, we have a relatively poor understanding of the effects of ALAN in the marine realm. Here, we carried out a field experiment in the coral reef lago...
Article
Mangrove ecosystems have the potential to store large amounts of carbon but detailed studies on the fine scale spatial variability of biomass components and sediment organic carbon (SOC) and their relationships are lacking. Here we investigated the fine-scale spatial variation of SOC, aboveground and belowground biomass using systematic grid sampli...
Article
One of the paramount goals of oyster reef living shorelines is to achieve sustained and adaptive coastal protection, which requires meeting ecological (i.e., develop a self‐sustaining oyster population) and engineering (i.e., provide coastal defense) targets. In a large‐scale comparison along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, the e...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Nature-based methods use the creation or restoration of coastal habitats for hazard risk reduction. This can be done through restoring the habitat alone (“soft” approach), or in combination with hard structures that support habitat establishment (“hybrid” approaches). The need to develop, test and apply more sustainable techniques to mitigate the i...
Article
Restoration of kelp forests typically relies on transplanting sporophylls to new locations and has limited application in regions with low remnant kelp cover. Cultivated kelp requires fewer sporophylls and is a potential alternative and sustainable source of transplants for large‐scale restoration projects. Naturally sourced fertile sporophylls, ho...
Article
Humans are altering marine ecosystems at unprecedented rates, and these changes can result in animals selecting poor‐quality habitats if the cues they use become misleading. Such “ecological traps” increase extinction risk, reduce ecosystem resilience, and are a consequence of human‐induced rapid environmental change. Although there is growing evid...
Article
Sea urchin gonads (roe) are a prized global sea food commodity, with growing demand driving the need for urchin roe enhancement aquaculture. Effective roe enhancement of urchins using formulated feeds require species‐specific optimization and an understanding of the interactions between key dietary components (e.g. protein, lipid, carbohydrate, ene...
Article
Growth and survival of larval fishes is highly variable and unpredictable. Our limited understanding of this variation constrains our ability to forecast population dynamics and effectively manage fisheries. Here we show that daily growth rates of a coral reef fish (the sixbar wrasse, Thalassoma hardwicke ) are strongly lunar-periodic and predicted...
Article
Full-text available
Citation: Fobert, E. K., S. E. Reeves, and S. E. Swearer. 2020. Ontogenetic shifts in social aggregation and habitat use in a temperate reef fish. Ecosphere 11(12):e03300. Abstract. Cover, both from physical structure or association with social groups, can reduce predation risk and increase foraging, leading to enhanced growth and survival, and is...
Article
Biodiverse ecosystems are sometimes inherently resistant to invasion, but environmental change can facilitate invasion by disturbing natural communities and providing resources that are underutilised by native species. In such cases, sufficiently abundant native predators may help to limit invasive population growth. We studied native and invasive...
Article
The systematics of the genus Hannia Vari 1978, endemic to freshwater habitats of remote northwestern Australia, is revised in light of recent collections in the region and a molecular study of the group that identified an undescribed candidate species. A new freshwater fish species (Hannia wintoni sp. nov) is described based on analysis of multiple...
Article
Full-text available
The systematics of the genus Hannia Vari 1978, endemic to freshwater habitats of remote northwestern Australia, is revised in light of recent collections in the region and a molecular study of the group that identified an undescribed candidate species. A new freshwater fish species (Hannia wintoni sp. nov) is described based on analysis of multiple...
Article
There is increasing interest in mitigating the loss of kelp forests through restoration, but this has received scant attention relative to other coastal habitats. We evaluate current knowledge centered on key restoration principles to provide guidelines for best practice in kelp restoration. The cause and scale of degradation is fundamental in dete...
Article
Traditional coastal protection methods that rely on built, hard structures like seawalls may not be effective to keep pace with a changing climate. Nature-based coastal defences based on habitat restoration can be an adaptive coastal protection alternative.
Article
Most organisms reproduce in a dynamic environment, and life‐history theory predicts that this can favor the evolution of strategies that capitalize on good times and avoid bad times. When offspring experience these environmental changes, fitness can depend strongly upon environmental conditions at birth and at later life stages. Consequently, fitne...
Article
Full-text available
Restoring degraded habitat to increase biodiversity is a global challenge. While habitat restoration for animals should lead to self‐sustaining breeding populations of target species, often this does not occur. Understanding the factors constraining progress toward this goal and how these constraints can be overcome is vital. We use a review to hig...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Despite the influence of sea‐level changes on biogeographic/phylogeographic patterns in freshwater ecosystems being well documented, studies that explicitly link the influence of sea‐level change with speciation are rare. We aim to test the hypothesis that sea‐level changes during the Pliocene and Pleistocene have driven speciation in north‐wes...
Article
Full-text available
Warming from climate change and resulting increases in energy stored in the oceans is causing changes in the hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of marine systems, exacerbating current challenges facing marine fisheries. Although studies have evaluated effects of rising temperatures on marine species, few have looked at these impacts along with other...
Article
Otolith chemistry is frequently employed in the reconstruction of fish environmental histories. While some elements have been strongly correlated with environmental factors (e.g. salinity, temperature, water chemistry), others may not indicate exogenous factors and simply add endogenous variability to a data set. Several commonly assessed elements...
Article
Full-text available
Kelp forests dominate the rocky coasts of temperate Australia and are the foundation of the Great Southern Reef. Much like terrestrial forests, these marine forests create complex habitat for diverse communities of flora and fauna. Kelp forests also support coastal food-webs and valuable fisheries and provide a suite of additional ecosystem service...
Article
Full-text available
Algal bioremediation can significantly improve the quality of wastewater by assimilating nutrients. However, the efficiency and stability of this approach depends on identifying suitable algae based on their biomass productivity and ability to outcompete less desirable algae. Here, we compare the productivity and competitive ability of three taxa o...
Article
Calcium biominerals occur in all major animal phyla, and through biomolecular control, exhibit such diverse structures as exoskeletons, shells, bones, teeth and earstones (otoliths). Determining the three-dimensional expression of key biomineral proteins, however, has proven challenging as typical protein identification methods either lose spatial...
Article
Global recognition of climate change and its predicted consequences has created the need for practical management strategies for increasing the ability of natural ecosystems to capture and store atmospheric carbon. Mangrove forests, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows, referred to as blue carbon ecosystems (BCEs), are hotspots of atmospheric CO2 stora...
Article
The global expansion of aquaculture has raised concerns about its environmental impacts, including effects on wildlife. Aquaculture farms are thought to repel some species and function as either attractive population sinks ('ecological traps') or population sources for others. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of empirical studies...
Article
The eye is an elegant organ consisting of a number of tissues and fluids with specialised functions that together allow it to effectively transmit and transduce light input to the brain for visual perception. One key determinant of this integrated function is the spatial relationship of ocular tissues. Biomolecular distributions within the main ocu...
Article
Finding the ideal density to optimise growth, health and welfare of aquaculture species reared in cage or tank environments allows farmers to produce the best quality product per unit area. Appropriate stocking densities are well known for most major aquaculture species, but limited information exists for the developing sea urchin aquaculture indus...
Article
Australia’s rapid coastal population growth coupled with the increased risk of hazards driven by climate change creates an urgent need to start adaptation planning for the future. The most common solutions for protecting the coast (seawalls, breakwaters) are expensive and non-adaptive (i.e., they need to be rebuilt, upgraded and maintained in respo...
Article
Larval dispersal is a key process determining population connectivity, metapopulation dynamics, and community structure in benthic marine ecosystems, yet the biophysical complexity of dispersal is not well understood. In this study, we investigate the interaction between disperser phenotype and hydrodynamics on larval dispersal pathways, using a te...
Article
Background and aims: Coastal protection from erosion and flooding is a significant ecosystem service provided by vegetated marine systems. Kelp beds are a dominant habitat-forming species on temperate reefs worldwide. While they are valued as hotspots of biodiversity, there is a paucity of information that supports their use in nature-based coasta...
Article
Full-text available
To test two prominent, alternate hypotheses that provide explanations for the great accumulation of endemic species in the Kimberley bioregion in north‐western Australia, using an extensively sampled, region wide phylogeny of northern Australia's most species‐rich freshwater fish family, Terapontidae. Specifically, we test whether the Kimberley may...
Article
The Earth is getting brighter at night, as artificial light at night (ALAN) continues to increase and extend its reach. Despite recent recognition of the damaging impacts of ALAN on terrestrial ecosystems, research on ALAN in marine systems is comparatively lacking. To further our understanding of the impacts of ALAN on marine organisms, this study...
Article
Otoliths are bioinorganic minerals within the inner ear of all bony fishes. They grow incre-mentally, laying down alternating protein-rich and mineral-rich bands daily. Consequently, otoliths are considered natural chronometers, archiving the growth and physico-chemical histories of individual fish, and thus are a powerful resource for fish biologi...
Article
Full-text available
Many freshwater organisms have a life-history stage that can disperse through seawater. This has obvious benefits for colonization and connectivity of fragmented sub-populations, but requires a physiologically challenging migration across a salinity boundary. We consider the role of landscape boundaries between freshwater and seawater habitats, and...
Article
Full-text available
Environmental contamination contributes to the threatened status of many amphibian populations. Many contaminants alter behaviour at concentrations commonly experienced in the environment, with negative consequences for individual fitness, populations and communities. A comprehensive, quantitative evaluation of the behavioural sensitivity of amphib...
Article
Animals that select the best available habitats are most likely to succeed in degraded environments, but ecological change can create evolutionarily unfamiliar habitats that may be under- or over-utilized by native fauna. In temperate coastal waters, eutrophication and grazing have driven a global decline in native seaweeds and facilitated the esta...
Preprint
Animals that select the best available habitats are most likely to succeed in degraded environments, but ecological change can create evolutionarily unfamiliar habitats that may be under‐ or over‐utilized by native fauna. In temperate coastal waters, eutrophication and grazing have driven a global decline in native seaweeds and facilitated the esta...
Article
Full-text available
Habitat restoration is vital to ameliorate the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on animal habitats. We reviewed the peer‐reviewed literature to examine where and how habitat restoration is undertaken. Our aim was to identify key knowledge gaps as well as research and monitoring needs that can inform future restoration actions. We found: (1) ma...
Article
Full-text available
Interest in sea urchin roe enhancement aquaculture is growing due to an increased global demand for high-quality roe that is suitable for export to international markets. Yet, fine-tuning of efficient collection methods and improved growing techniques are still key bottlenecks to industry success. Urchins suitable for roe enhancement are generally...
Article
Full-text available
Theory predicts that animals should prefer habitats where their fitness is maximized but some mistakenly select habitats where their fitness is compromised, that is, ecological traps. Understanding why this happens requires knowledge of the habitat selection cues animals use, the habitats they prefer and why, and the fitness costs of habitat select...
Article
Full-text available
Wetlands are increasingly being constructed to mitigate the effects of urban stormwater, such as altered hydrological regimes and reduced water quality, on downstream aquatic ecosystems. While the primary purpose of these wetlands is to manage stormwater, they also attract animals whose growth, survival and breeding (i.e. ‘fitness’) may be compromi...
Article
Artificial reefs (ARs) have been advocated and implemented as management tools for recreational fisheries, species conservation and habitat replacement. For ARs to function as substitute habitat for degraded natural reefs, they should perform as close as possible to local natural reefs, however this is seldom investigated. Here we evaluated the per...
Article
Full-text available
The Australian freshwater fish fauna is very unique, but poorly understood. In the Australian Monsoonal Tropics (AMT) biome of northern Australia, the number of described and candidate species has nearly doubled since the last attempt to analyse freshwater fish species composition patterns and determine a bioregionalisation scheme. Here, we utilise...
Article
Full-text available
Oyster reef living shorelines have been proposed as an effective alternative to traditional coastal defence structures (e.g., bulkheads, breakwaters), with the benefit that they may keep pace with sea‐level rise and provide co‐benefits, such as habitat provision. However, there remains uncertainty about the effectiveness of shoreline protection pro...
Chapter
Full-text available
Kelp forests dominate the rocky reefs of temperate Australia and are the foundation of the Great Southern Reef that stretches 8,000km along the country's southern coastline. Much like terrestrial forests, kelp forests are complex habitats that support entire communities of associated flora and fauna. Unfortunately, in many places around Australia k...
Chapter
Full-text available
Kelp forests dominate the rocky reefs of temperate Australia and are the foundation of the Great Southern Reef that stretches 8,000km along the country's southern coastline. Much like terrestrial forests, kelp forests are complex habitats that support entire communities of associated flora and fauna. Unfortunately, in many places around Australia k...