Professor Chris Perry
Chair in Physical Geography


Research interests

My research addresses fundamental questions about the response of coral reefs, reef landforms and mangroves to environmental change, and the geomorphologic processes that control the evolution of Quaternary tropical coastal and shallow marine sedimentary environments. Much of my early research was focused on quantifying the process controls on Holocene carbonate sediment and reef framework production and preservation. This work was subsequently extended to encompass the development of high-resolution framework and sedimentary indictors of reef depositional environments and events. Much of my recent research has focused on applied aspects of contemporary reef geomorphology that seek to address issues associated with the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance, and environmental and climatic change on the functioning, stability and sustainability of tropical coastal and shallow marine sedimentary environments.

Research projects

Key current research areas:

(1) Impacts of environmental change on reef growth and shallow marine carbonate accumulation

Research in this area focuses on quantifying the effects of anthropogenic and environmental disturbance on reef carbonate production and on coral reef growth. Major on-going projects are: (i) examining Holocene reef development under naturally ‘marginal’ marine environmental conditions (especially those of high turbidity and high terrigenous sediment input); and (ii) developing novel census-based methods to assess rates of reef carbonate production and coral reef accretion.

(2) Geomorphology and resilience of coral reef islands

Research in this area is focused on developing an improved understanding of the underlying controls on the initiation and subsequent development of low-lying coral reef islands, and on using an improved understanding of reef island geomorphology to better understand island resilience and their potential responses to future environmental changes. Much of this current work is being conducted under the auspices of the IAG working group REEForm.

(3) Marine carbonate sediment production in fish

Research in this area has evolved from novel work undertaken in 2009 that provided the first descriptions of the sedimentary products of carbonate precipitation in tropical marine fish. Presently, this work is being extended to examine the preservation potential of these carbonates in different tropical marine environments, and to examine the products and preservation potential of marine fish carbonate production in temperate water settings.

Research funding

2013-2017. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/K003143/1)  Carbonate sediment production by marine fish: quantifying production across carbonate provinces and applications to global marine carbonate modelling.

2013-2016. NERC-ESPA-DFiD: Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme Grant “Sustainable poverty alleviation from coastal ecosystem services (SPACES): Investigating elasticities, feedbacks and tradeoffs”

2012-2013. Natural Environment Research Council (Radiocarbon Dating Allocation). Terrigenous sediment-dominated reefs as precursors for shelf-reef development.

2012-2016. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J023329/1) Exploring the hidden shallows: inner-shelf reef growth and future trajectories of reef geomorphic change.

2011-2012. Natural Environment Research Council (Radiocarbon Dating Allocation). Rates and timescales of lagoon infilling as a control on reef island development.

2011-2012. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J005398/1). Rapid assessments of Cyclone Yasi’s impact on nearshore coral reefs and resultant sediment records of the event.

2010-2011. Natural Environment Research Council (Radiocarbon Dating Allocation). Testing models of episodic, inner-shelf reef ‘turn-on‘ and ‘turn-off‘ events at regional and intra-reefal scales.

2010-2013. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/H010092/1). Fish carbonates – their nature and fate within the marine inorganic carbon cycle.

2009-2011. The Leverhulme Trust – International Research Network (F/00426/G). Development of a rapid carbonate budget assessment protocol for coral reefs.

2009-2010. Natural Environment Research Council (Isotope Geosciences Allocation). Palaeo-ecological records of terrestrial run-off and sediment influence on coral reef ecosystems: a case study from King Reef, Northern Queensland, Australia.

2009-2013. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/G011389/1). Criteria for interpreting carbonate platform drowning histories and resultant diagenetic fabrics: insights from actively subsiding platform margins.

2009-2010. Natural Environment Research Council (NE/G010617/1). The production and fate of fish-derived carbonate crystals in tropical shallow water environments.

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