Our lab is one of the founding participants of the Indo-Pacific Ancient Ecosystems group (IPAEG), which is attempting to unravel the evolutionary history of coral reef development in the Indo-Pacific Ocean over the past tens of millions of years.

We seek to understand the evolution of tropical marine biodiversity in a rigorous temporal and environmental framework, from around 28 to 18 million years ago, during climatic and tectonic change in the South China Sea. Discovery of marine biotic evolution and carbonate platform development will be incorporated into studies of hydrocarbon reservoir potential. This project will enable a broad understanding of the role of environmental change on the biological origins of modern Indo-Pacific marine ecosystems and help in predicting hydrocarbon potential of biogenic carbonate rocks in the subsurface of SE Asia. We will elucidate the relationships between biotic evolution, carbonate platform development and petroleum reservoir potential.

1) The Neogene evolution of coral reefs from the South China Sea

Knowledge of the environmental events and corresponding development of marine diversity in the Indo-Pacific is in the embryonic stage when compared with the detailed view of evolution of marine biodiversity in the Caribbean, and it is inadequate for understanding processes underlying the origin and persistence of this marine biodiversity epicentre.

This project will improve our understanding of evolution of marine biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific through investigation of the Neogene evolution of coral reefs from the South China Sea and will provide:
• a new reference collection of fossil reef-building corals from the South China Sea and their detailed systematic description
• a detailed record of temporal and spatial ranges of fossil corals crucial for any future evolutionary, biogeographic and environmental study of coral reefs
• a description of composition of marine environments on the Oligocene-Miocene boundary, providing the first clues about environmental conditions in the time of origination of the Indo-Pacific marine biodiversity hotspot.
• an analysis of fluctuation of coral diversity and taxonomic turnover through the Neogene, a baseline for detecting environmental drivers of evolution of marine biodiversity.

This project will yield new insights into the environmental correlates of regional biodiversity patterns on Indo-Pacific coral reefs through time. It will also provide important clues for understanding the rise of modern Indo-Pacific reefs and their potential response to predicted global change.

Researchers:John Pandolfi, Morana Mihaljević

Kevin Welsh, University of Queensland
Willem Renema, Naturalis

2) Reservoir characteristics of the South China Sea

Researchers:John Pandolfi

Kevin Welsh, University of Queensland
Willem Renema, Naturalis
Moyra Wilson, Curtin University
Michael Gagan, Australian National University