Recent work has suggested that competition itself and the derived chaotic dynamics are behind the high diversity (Huisman and Weissing 1999). Further, the results of Irigoien et al., (2004) suggest that in oligotrophic waters the phytoplankton diversity is low. If such hypothesis is true the phytoplanktonic diversity in coral reefs should not be different from that of other oligotrophic water columns and in contrast with the high diversity in benthos and fish. However, the real planktonic (phyto and zooplankton) diversity is unknown because the limitations in morphological species determination on such taxa. In that context I have a particular interest to use the metagenomic sequencing capacities and knowledge at KAUST to compare the real richness of the phytoplankton and zooplankton community in different areas of the Red Sea: Deep oligotrophic but warm waters, in the areas.
Further, the observed distributions will be used to develop predictive habitat distribution models. Predictive habitat distribution models (Guisan & Zimmermann, 2000) are extremely powerful tools to both predict and understand the environmental factors determining species and communities distributions. Such models have been shown to be useful even in plankton (Zarauz et al., 2008) but can express their maximum potential in habitat with complex structure. In terrestrial ecology they have been widely used to setup protected areas in order to preserve particular species or communities. However in marine ecology they are not so widely used although having a lot of potential in the determination of marine protected areas. My intention is to develop habitat distribution models (General additive or non-parametric multiplicative models) to the coral ecosystem (corals, fish and invertebrate species) as a function of physical, biotic and morphological factors (salinity, temperature, depth, other species, reef structure etc).