VERGES Adriana
Associate Professor Adriana Vergés
BSc (NUI Galway), MSc (DCU), PhD (U. Barcelona)
Field of Research: 
Marine ecology, species interactions, climate change, tropicalisation
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2110
Room 4115, Level 4
Biological Sciences South (E26)

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 the conservation of the world’s algal forests and seagrass meadows, which are increasingly under threat. 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 takes place underwater, with a SCUBA tank strapped to my back, and is experimental.

I am passionate about communicating science to the wider public, especially through films, art and new media.


• Ocean warming and the tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems – This project investigates the causes of climate-mediated declines of 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


• Operation Crayweed: RestoringSydney’s 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.

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


Dr Enric Ballesteros (CEAB-CSIC)Dr Alexandra Campbell (UNSW)Dr James Guest (UNSW & NTU),  Dr Hamish Malcolm (NSW DPI), Dr Ezequiel (Ziggy) Marzinelli (UNSW)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


Shannen Smith (PhD candidate) – Impact of biotic interactions between native and tropical species in tropicalized temperate reefs (jointly supervised by Dr Ziggy Marzinelli)

Erin McCosker (PhD candidate) – Economic, ecological and social implications of the tropicalisation of temperate reefs (jointly supervised by Prof Peter Steinberg)

Ines Richter (Honours candidate) – Do gut microbes facilitate range-shifts tropical herbiovorus fish into temperate ecosystems? (jointly supervised by Dr Suhelen Egan)

Isobel Della Marta (Honours candidate) – Mapping predation and effectiveness of protected areas across Sydney Harbour(jointly supervised by A/ Prof Alistair Poore)

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

Georgina Wood (PhD candidate) – Does crayweed genetic diversity enhance restoration success? (jointly supervised by Dr Ziggy Marzinelli and Dr Melinda Coleman)

Lana Kajlich (PhD candidate) – Giving underwater forests a helping hand: can science communication and the arts drive communities to engage in restoration? (co-supervised by Dr Alexandra Campbell)

Louise Castro (MSc candidate) – Climate change and the indirect threat of tropical herbivores to temperate kelp forests (co-supervised by Dr Paulina Cetina Heredia and A/ Prof Moninya Roughan)

Sahira Bell (PhD candidate) – Global threats to ocean forests: understanding the impacts of heatwaves and herbivores in kelp ecosystems (co-supervised with A/Prof Thomas Wernberg, from University of Western Australia)


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)


Adam Camilleri (BScHonours 2017) - The impact of sea urchins and structural complexity on the restoration of crayweed (co-supervised by Dr Ziggy Marzinelli)

Tashya Miranda (BSc Honours 2016) – Variation in diet nutritional quality and feeding habits of range-shifting tropical surgeonfishes from tropical to temperate ecosystems

Lara Parata (BSc Honours 2016) - Microbial communities associated with the gut and diet of range shifting herbivorous fish species

Nigel Coombes (BSc Honours 2015) - Impacts of herbivores on crayweed restoration success (jointly supervised by Dr Ezequiel Marzinelli)

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)




43. Evans SM, Sinclair EA, Poore AGB, Bain KF, Vergés A (In press, accepted 2nd August 2017) Assessing the effect of genetic diversity on the early establishment of the threatened seagrass Posidonia australis using a reciprocal-transplant experiment. Restoration Ecology

42. Evans SM, Vergés A, Poore AGB (In press, accepted 31st July 2017) Genotypic diversity and short-term response to shading stress in a threatened seagrass: does low diversity mean low resilience? Frontiers in Plant Science

41. Bonebrake T, Brown C, Bell J, Blanchard J, Chauvenet, Alienor; Champion C, Chen IC, Clark T, Colwell R, Danielsen F, Dell A, Donelson J, Evengard B, Ferrier S, Frusher S,  Garcia R, Griffis R, Hobday A, Jarzyna M, Lee E, Lenoir J; Linnetved H, Martin V, McCormack P, McDonald J, McDonald-Madden E, Mitchell N, Mustonen T, Pandolfi J, Pettorelli N, Possingham H, Pulsifer P, Reynolds M, Scheffers B, Sorte C, Strugnell J, Tuanmu MN, Twiname S, Vergés A; Villanueva C, Wapstra E, Wernberg T, Pecl G (In press, accepted 5th May 2017) Managing consequences of climate -driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science. Biological Reviews

40. Nielsen S, Wilkes-Walburn J, Vergés A, Thomas T, Egan S (In press, accepted 16th April 2017) Microbiome patterns across the gastrointestinal tract of the rabbitfish Siganus fuscescens. Peer J.

39. Pecl GT, Araújo MB, Bell JD, Blanchard J, Bonebrake TC, Chen IC, Clark TD, Colwell RK, Danielsen F, Evengård B, Falconi L, Ferrier S, Frusher S, Garcia RA, Griffis R, Hobday AJ, Janion-Scheepers C, Jarzyna MA, Jennings S, Lenoir J, Linnetved HI, Martin VY, McCormack PC, McDonald J, Mitchell NJ, Mustonen T, Pandolfi JM, Pettorelli N, Popova E, Robinson SA, Scheffers BR, Shaw JD, Sorte CJB, Strugnell JM, Sunday JM, Tuanmu MN, Vergés A, Villanueva C, Wernberg T, Wapstra E, Williams SE (2017) Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science 355 (6332) eaai9214

38. Vergés A, Doropoulos C, Malcolm HA, Skye M, Garcia-Piza M, Marzinelli EM, Campbell AH, Ballesteros E, Hoey AS, Vila-Concejo A, Bozec YM, Steinberg PD (2016). Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory and loss of kelp. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. 201610725.

37. Guest JR, Tun K, Low J, Vergés A, Bauman AG, Marzinelli EM, Campbell AH, Bauman AG, Feary DA, Chou LM, Steinberg PD (2016) 27 years of benthic and coral community dynamics on turbid, highly urbanised reefs. Scientific Reports 6: 36260.

36. 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 Press, Accepted 1/8/16) Accelerating tropicalization and the transformation of temperate seagrass meadows. BioScience.

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