Marine Protected Areas Enhance Coral Reef Functioning By Promoting Fish Biodiversity

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
Final version published as: 

Topor, Zachary & B. Rasher, Douglas & Emmett Duffy, J & Brandl, Simon. (2019). Marine protected areas enhance coral reef functioning by promoting fish biodiversity. Conservation Letters. e12638. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12638

Date created: 
2019-03-01
Keywords: 
Biodiversity ecosystem functioning (BEF)
Browsing
Coral reef conservation
Ecosystem‐based management (EBM)
Herbivory
Macroalgae
Marine reserve
Phase shift
Resilience
Abstract: 

Preserving biodiversity and ecosystem function in the Anthropocene is one of humanity's greatest challenges. Ecosystem‐based management and area closures are considered an effective way to maintain ecological processes, especially in marine systems. Although there is strong evidence that such measures positively affect community structure, their impact on the rate of key ecological processes remains unclear. Here, we provide evidence that marine protected areas enhance herbivory rates on coral reefs via direct and indirect pathways. Using meta‐analysis and a path‐analytical framework, we demonstrate that, on average, protected areas increase the species richness of herbivorous fishes, which, in turn, enhances browsing rates on macroalgae. However, in all three regions studied (the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean), a small subset of the herbivore assemblage accounted for the majority of browsing. Our results therefore indicate that ecosystem functioning on coral reefs may respond positively to both area closures and the protection of key species.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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