VERGES Adriana
Dr Adriana Vergés
BSc (NUI Galway), MSc (DCU), PhD (U. Barcelona)
Senior Lecturer
Field of Research: 
Marine ecology, species interactions, climate change, tropicalisation
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2110
Room 617

Biological Sciences Building (D26)
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS)

Follow me on Twitter @adriatix

Research & Current Projects

My research focuses on marine ecology and conservation. I’m particularly interested on the ecological impacts of climate change and what I call the 'tropicalisation' of temperate communities. As oceans warm, the proportion of tropical species in temperate reefs is increasing, and in some instances this is having very dramatic effects as temperate algal forests get replaced by smaller turf algae or corals, fundamentally changing ecological communities. I have worked in tropical coral reefs and temperate ecosystems from around the world (Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans) and much of my research is experimental and takes place underwater.

I am also very interested in communicating science to the wider public, especially through films and new media. I curate the Science and Storytelling events at the Australian Museum and I am a member of the CSIRO's Scientists in Schools initiative.


Ecological mechanisms driving the tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems – This project investigates the causes of climate-mediated declines in cold water algal forests. These seaweeds are the trees of our underwater world and support major fisheries and coastal recreation. This project provides innovative multidisciplinary training for postgraduate students in experimental marine ecology, advanced molecular microbiology and physical oceanography.

Featured in:

The Conversation - Sydney’s waters could be tropical in decades, here’s the bad news

Sydney Morning Herald - Climate-driven migration of tropical fish linked to underwater deforestation
National Geographic - Tropical Fish Cause Trouble as Climate Change Drives Them Toward the Poles
ABC Science - Tropical fish threaten kelp and algae


• Kelp grazers and the restoration of missing underwater forests – The loss of habitat-forming macroalgae along urbanised coastlines represents a substantial loss of biodiversity worldwide. Crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) is an important habitat-forming species that supports economically important fisheries such as crayfish and abalone. Crayweed disappeared from all metropolitan Sydney reefs in the 1980s, probably as a consequence of pollution. Although water quality has dramatically improved since those days, crayweed has not returned. This project aims to restore crayweed to Sydney reefs and investigates the ecological processes that influence the survival of this species in denuded coastlines.

See and follow our crowdfunding campaign at
Follow us: @crayweedcrew on Twitter | Operation Crayweed on Facebook

Featured in:
BBC News - 'Underwater Christmas trees' help restore key habitat
The Huffington Post - ‘Operation Crayweed' Aims To Bring Back Sydney's Underwater Forests With Crowdfunding
ABC News - Scientists work to restore seaweed forests off Sydney's coast
Sydney Morning Herald - Crowdfunding campaign to restore Sydney's lost crayweed forests

• Seagrass genetic diversity and ecosystem function – Loss of biodiversity ranks among the major causes of ecosystem change in the 21st century, with effects rivalling those of other human impacts such as climate change, habitat loss and nutrient pollution. Communities with greater diversity generally exhibit greater productivity and recover better from disturbance when compared to less diverse communities. This projects investigates diversity at the genotypic level in an endangered seagrass (Posidonia australis) and aims to establish the relationship between genotypic diversity, phenotypic diversity and community processes such as productivity and herbivory.


Dr Enric Ballesteros (CEAB-CSIC)Dr Alexandra Campbell (UNSW)Dr James Guest (UNSW & NTU),  Dr Hamish Malcolm (NSW DPI), Dr Ezequiel (Ziggy) Marzinelli (UNSW)A/Prof Alistair Poore (UNSW)A/Prof Elizabeth Sinclair (UWA, BGPA)Prof Peter Steinberg (UNSW)Dr Fiona Tomas (IMEDEA-CSIC)A/Prof Thomas Wernberg (UWA)

Research Students


Ruby Garthwin (PhD candidate) – Ecosystem functions and values of seagrass in a changing world (jointly supervised by A/ Prof Alistair Poore)

Nigel Coombes (Honours candidate) - Impacts of herbivores on crayweed restoration success (jointly supervised by Dr Ezequiel Marzinelli)

Tashya Miranda (Honours candidate) – Variation in diet nutritional quality and feeding habits of range-shifting tropical surgeonfishes from tropical to temperate ecosystems

Lara Parata (Honours candidate) - Microbial communities associated with the gut and diet of range shifting herbivorous fish species


Suzanna Evans (PhD) – Seagrass genetic diversity and ecosystem function (jointly supervised by A/ Prof Alistair Poore; co-supervisor: ElizabethSinclair UWA)

Lara Ainley (PhD) – Influences of climatic environment and coastal development on the decomposition of Zostera capricornii and Avicennia marina (principal supervisor: Dr Melanie Bishop, Macquarie University)

Jerom Stocks (PhD) – Ecology and population structure of rock blackfish (Girella elevata) across a latitudinal gradient (principal supervisor: Prof Iain Suthers)


Kieren Searle (BSc Honours, 2014) – Surgeonfish on the move and the tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems

Mat Skye (BSc Honours, 2014) – What’s the role of herbivory in mediating the latitudinal and depth distribution of Ecklonia radiata?

Alex Basford (BSc Honours, 2012) Ecological impacts of tropical surgeonfish in temperate systems

Gary Truong (BSc Honours, 2012) Do tropical sea urchins pose a threat to temperate algal ecosystems?

Marty Leong (BSc Honours, 2012) Marine invertebrate communities and the restoration of missing underwater forests in Sydney

Ruby Garthwin (Honours, 2012) Effects of warming on seagrass tolerance to herbivory

Keryn Bain (Honours, 2012) – Using near infrared spectroscopy to quantify intra-specific variation in seagrass tissue traits

Peter Michael (Honours, 2009) – Regional differences in the piscine drivers of macroalgal herbivory in a coral-reef marine park


BIOS2011 Evolutionary and Physiological Ecology (Lecturer)

BIOS3091 Marine and Aquatic Ecology (Course Coordinator)

BIOS6692 Advanced Underwater Field Ecology (Course Coordinator – course currently being developed, will be offered in Summer Term 2016)



1. Guest JR, Vergés A, Bauman AG, Campbell AH, Chou LM, Feary DA, Low JK, Marzinelli EM, Tun K, Steinberg PD. (2016) Examining the relationship between herbivores, corals and macroalgae on Singapore’s heavily disturbed reefs. PeerJ Preprints 4:e1907v1

2. Hyndes GA, Heck KL, Vergés A, Kendrick GA, Orth R, Pearce A, McMahon K, Lavery PS, Whiting S, Wilson SK, Wernberg T, Vanderklift MA, Harvey ES (In review) Accelerating tropicalization and the transformation of temperate seagrass meadows

3. Guest JR, Vergés A, Low J, Bauman AG, Tun K, Feary DA, Campbell AH, Marzinelli EM, Chou LM, Steinberg PD (In review) 27 years of benthic and coral community dynamics on turbid, highly urbanised reefs

4. Hyndes GA, Vergés A, Doropoulos C, Vanderklift MA (In review) Stable isotopes reveal that macroalgae are important food sources to a broad suite of herbivorous fishes in a coral-reef ecosystem

5. Ainley LB, Raybaud M, Vergés A, Bishop MJ (in review) Relationships between intraspecific variation in leaf traits and decomposition vary between species. Hydrobiologia


35. Ainley L, Vergés A, Bishop MJ (In press- accepted 8/4/16) Congruence of intraspecific variability in leaf traits for two co-occurring estuarine angiosperms. Oecologia

34. Evans S, Sinclair EA, Poore AGB, Bain KF, Vergés A (2016) Genotypic richness predicts phenotypic variation in an endangered clonal plant. PeerJ 4:e1633.

33. Vergés A, Wernberg T (2015) Climate change: underwater forest decline: Loss of kelp forest places commercial fisheries at risk Ecological Society of Australia Hot Topics in Ecology

32. Marzinelli E, Leong M, Campbell A, Steinberg PD, Vergés A (2016) Does restoration of a habitat-forming seaweed restore associated faunal diversity? Restoration Ecology 24:81-90

31.Basford A, Feary D, Truong G, Steinberg PD, Marzinelli EM, Vergés A (2016) Feeding habits of range-shifting herbivores: tropical surgeonfishes in a temperate environment. Marine and Freshwater Research 67:75-83

30. Marzinelli EM, Campbell AH, Zozaya Valdes E, Vergés A, Nielsen S, Wernberg T, de Bettignies T, Bennett S, Caporaso JG, Thomas T, Steinberg PD (2015) Continental-scale variation in seaweed host-associated bacterial communities is a function of host condition, not geography. Environmental Microbiology7:4078-4088.

29. Vergés A, Tomas F, Cebrian E, Ballesteros E, Kizilkaya Z, Dendrinos P, Karamanlidis AA, Spiegel D, Sala E (2014) Tropical rabbitfish and the deforestation of a warming temperate sea. Journal of Ecology 102 (6) 1518–1527

28. Vergés A, Steinberg PD, Hay ME, Poore AG, Campbell AH, Ballesteros E, Heck KL, Booth D, Coleman MA, Feary D, Figueira W, Langlois T, Marzinelli EM, Mizerek T, Mumby PJ, Nakamura Y, Roughan M, van Sebille E, Sen Gupta A, Smale DA, Tomas F, Wernberg T, Wilson SK (2014) The tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems: climate-mediated changes in herbivory and community phase shifts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20140846 - 20140846

27. Campbell AH, Vergés A, Steinberg PD (2014) Demographic consequences of disease in a habitat-forming seaweed and impacts on interactions between natural enemies. Ecology 95: 142-152

26. Farina S, Arthur R, Pagès J, Prado P, Romero R, Vergés A, Hyndes G, Heck Jr K, Glenos S, Alcoverro T (2014) Differences in predator composition alter the direction of structure-mediated predation risk in macrophyte communities. Oikos 123 (11): 1311-1322

25. Evans S, Sinclair EA, Poore AG, Steinberg PD, Kendrick, GA, Vergés A (2014) Genetic diversity in threatenedPosidonia australis seagrass meadows. Conservation Genetics 15 (3) 717-728

24. Sen Gupta A, Brown, JN, Jourdain NC, van Sebille E, Ganachaud A, Vergés A (2015) Episodic and non-uniform migration of thermal habitats in a warming ocean. Deep-Sea Research II 113:59-72

23. Campbell AH, Marzinelli E, Vergés A, Coleman MA, Steinberg PD (2014) Towards restoration of missing underwater forests. Plos One 9(1): e84106

22. Marzinelli E, Campbell AH, Vergés A, Coleman BP, Coleman MA, Steinberg PD (2014) Restoring seaweeds: does the declining fucoid Phyllospora comosa support different biodiversity than other habitats? Journal of Applied Phycology 26: 1089-1096

21. Garthwin RG, Poore AG, Vergés A (2014) Seagrass tolerance to herbivory under increased ocean temperatures. Marine Pollution Bulletin 83: 475-482

20. Bain KVergés A, Poore AG (2013) Using near infra red reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) to quantify tissue composition in the seagrass Posidonia australis. Aquatic Botany 111: 66-70

19. Ballesteros E, Hereu B, Sales M, Sant N, Vergés A (2013, Accepted Dec 2012) Boscos d’algues. In: Ballesteros E (ed). Atles d’Ecologia, clima i evolució. Història Natural dels Països Catalans. Enciclopèdia Catalana, Barcelona, Spain.

18. Doropoulos C, Abecasis D, Hyndes GA, Vergés A (2013) Herbivores strongly influence algal recruitment in both coral and algal dominated coral reef habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 486: 153-164

17. Michael P, Hyndes GA, Vanderklift M, Vergés A (2013) Identity and behaviour of herbivorous fish influence large-scale spatial patterns of macroalgal herbivory in a coral reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series 482: 227-240

16. Vergés, A, Bennett, S, Bellwood, DR (2012) Diversity among macroalgae-consuming fishes in coral reefs: a transcontinental comparison. PLoS One. 7(9): e45543

15. Vergés A, Tomas F, Ballesteros E (2012) Interactive effects of depth and marine protection on predation and herbivory. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 450: 55-65

14. Wernberg T, Smale DA, Vergés A,Campbell A, Russell BD, Coleman MA., Ling SD, Steinberg PD, Johnson CR, Kendrick GA, Connell SD (2012). Macroalgae and Temperate Rocky Reefs. In: Poloczanska, ES, Hobday, AJ & Richardson, AJ (eds) 2012 Report Card of Marine Climate Change in Australia; Impacts and Adaptation Responses, NCCARF publication

13. Campbell AH, Vergés A, Harder T, Steinberg PD (2012). Causes and ecological consequences of a climate-mediated disease. In: Wildlife and climate change: toward robust conservation strategies for Australian fauna (eds. Lunney D & Hutchings P). Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, Australia.

12. Vergés A, Vanderklift M, Doropoulos C, Hyndes GA (2011) Spatial patterns in herbivory on a coral reef are influenced by structural complexity but not by algal traits. PLoS ONE. 6(2) e17115

11. Vergés A, Alcoverro T, Romero J (2011) Plant defences and the role of epibiosis in mediating within-plant feeding choices of seagrass consumers. Oecologia. 166(2): 381-390

10. Vergés A, Hyndes GA, Vanderklift MA (2011) Trophic effects through herbivory at Ningaloo ReefSynthesis report for the Western Australia Marine Science Institute Node 3.2: Biodiversity assessment, ecosystem impacts of human usage and management evaluation.

9. Bennett S, Vergés A, Bellwood DR (2010) Branching coral as a macroalgal refuge in a marginal coral reef system. Coral Reefs. 29: 471-480

8. Vergés A, Alcoverro T, Ballesteros E (2009) The role of fish herbivory in structuring the vertical distribution of canopy algae (Cystoseira spp.) in the Mediterranean. Marine Ecology Progress Series (Feature Article) 375: 1-11

7. Vergés A, Paul NA, Steinberg PD (2008) Sex and life history stage alter herbivore responses to a chemically defended red alga. Ecology. 89(5): 1334–1343

6. Vergés A, Pérez M, Alcoverro T, Romero J (2008) Compensation and resistance to herbivory in seagrasses: induced responses to simulated fish consumption. Oecologia. 155 (4): 751-760

5. Martínez-Crego B, Vergés A, Alcoverro T, Romero J (2008) Selection of multiple seagrass indicators for environmental biomonitoring. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 361: 93-109

4. Vergés A, Becerro MA, Alcoverro T, Romero J (2007) Variation in multiple traits of vegetative and reproductive seagrass tissues influences plant-herbivore interactions. Oecologia. 151: 675-686

3. Vergés A, Becerro MA, Alcoverro T, Romero J (2007) Experimental evidence of chemical deterrence against multiple herbivores in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 343: 107-114

2. Prado P, Alcoverro T, Martínez-Crego B, Vergés A, Pérez, M, Romero, J (2007) Macrograzers strongly influence patterns of epiphytic assemblages in seagrass meadows. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 350: 130-143

1. Kraan S, Vergés Tramullas A, Guiry MD. (2000) The edible brown seaweed Alaria esculenta (Phaeophyceae; Laminariales): hybridization, growth and genetic comparisons of six Irish populations. Journal of Applied Phycology. 12:577-583