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Project Overview

Assembly of Marine Biodiversity Along Geographic and Anthropogenic Stress Gradients

This project brings together partners from the USA and across the Indo-Pacific to conduct a systematic and comprehensive biological inventory of coral reef diversity across the Coral Triangle. Specifically, PIRE project members seek to answer the following questions:

  • Are biodiversity patterns inferred from fish, corals, and conspicuous snails representative of the spectrum of biological diversity on coral reef communities?
  • Do biodiversity patterns of microbes and viruses mirror biodiversity patterns in marine metazoans?
  • How do abundance and diversity of reef organisms vary across gradients of anthropogenic stress?
  • Do functional diversity patterns correlate with taxonomic patterns in predictable ways?

By addressing these questions, this project will increase understanding of the processes responsible for the extraordinary concentration of biodiversity in this region. Such information will greatly improve ability to conserve and manage the diversity and function of these critically important ecosystems.

To achieve the PIRE project goals, researchers are employing a novel tool, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), to systematically measure marine biodiversity in a way that is standardized, highly efficient, and statistically robust. ARMS allow for the sampling of biodiversity over equivalent surface areas and periods of time, after which they are processed using consistent and easily repeatable protocols. This standardized approach allows for comparable sampling from larger marine flora and fauna to microbes and viruses.


ARMS outreach

An ARMS being retrieved by divers after two years on a reef in Bali, Indonesia.


The integration of traditional morphological taxonomic identification with DNA barcoding and next-generation metagenomic approaches vastly increases the number of species that are included in the biodiversity measurements. The standardized nature of the ARMS and the use of metagenomics and metabolomics provide further insights into functional diversity and redundancy within the ARMS community.


ARMS global map

Map of deployed ARMS and planned sites.

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Rohwer Laboratory, San Diego State University.

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Forest Rohwer, PhD
SDSU, Biology

Paul Barber, PhD
UCLA, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology