Understanding the conditions that foster coral reefs' caretaker fishes

phys.org | 12/4/2016 | Staff
cv2angels (Posted by) Level 3
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Coral reefs are among the most valuable natural assets on Earth. They provide an estimated US$375 billion worth of goods and services every year, such as supporting fisheries and protecting coasts. But reefs face many stresses and shocks, from local threats like overfishing, habitat damage and pollution to the global impacts of climate change. Many scientists are working to identify management strategies that can effectively buffer reefs against the array of threats that challenge them.

Herbivorous fish (species that eat plants) are critical for healthy coral reefs because they help to regulate the constant competition for space between corals and seaweeds. Hard corals and other reef-building organisms form hard skeletons out of calcium carbonate, while fleshy organisms such as seaweeds and algal turfs (thick mats of short algae) grow on the surfaces of these hard structures. By feeding on seaweeds and algal turfs, herbivorous fish prevent these organisms from smothering reefs.

Studies - Importance - Reef - Conservation - Fish

Recent studies have stressed the importance for coral reef conservation of protecting herbivorous fish, which are heavily fished in many parts of the world. But in a new study, we found that populations of herbivorous fish vary widely from site to site, and are strongly influenced by factors including temperature and island type. This means that strategies to protect these important species may not work unless they take local conditions into account, and no single strategy is likely to work everywhere.

Fishing has caused widespread reductions in herbivorous fish populations on coral reefs around the world. Because fishing has had such pervasive global effects, it is hard to separate human impacts from the natural biophysical and environmental drivers of these fish populations.

Distinction - Herbivores - Places - Others - Depletion

But we need to make this distinction if we want to understand why herbivores might be naturally more prevalent in some places than others, and to measure true human-related depletion effects...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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