World’s Reef Fishes Tussling With Human Overpopulation

June 27, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Ben Zuckerman for this important article.  See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405130347.htm

Science Daily 4-5-11

World’s Reef Fishes Tussling With Human Overpopulation

“Coral reefs provide a range of critical goods and services to humanity — everything from nutrient cycling to food production to coast protection to economic revenues through tourism,” says Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University and lead researcher of the study. “Yet the complex nature and large-scale distribution of coral reefs is challenging scientists to understand if this natural ecosystem will continue working to deliver goods and services given the ongoing loss of biodiversity in coral reefs.”

“Numerous experiments have showed that biodiversity has positive effects on several ecosystem processes, although the number of species required to ensure the functionality of a given process is fairly low, as many species often have similar ecological roles,” says Michel Loreau from McGill University, a co-author of the study. “What remains largely unknown, however, is whether the results of experimental studies reflect what happens in real ecosystems.”

To fill this unknown, 55 researchers, in a two-year study, collected the necessary data to determine whether biodiversity influences the efficiency of reef fish systems to produce biomass, and if so, elucidate the role of humans in such a linkage. The team collected demographic data on human populations as well as environmental and biological data on the identity of species, their abundances and body sizes in almost two thousand coral reef locations worldwide. The data on abundance and body size were used to calculate the cumulative weight of all fishes on each reef (also called standing biomass), which is one of the main services reef fishes provide to humanity through food supply but also a very close proxy for how effectively ecosystems produce biomass.

“The results of the study were stunning,” says co-author Kevin Gaston at Sheffield University. “While experimental studies have elucidated that the biomass production of ecosystems stabilizes after a certain number of species is reached, this field study demonstrated that the production of biomass in reef fish systems did not saturate with the addition of new species.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405130347.htm


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