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Marine Protected Areas Enhance Coral Reef Functioning By Promoting Fish Biodiversity

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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.
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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
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Conservation Letters
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Marine protected areas enhance coral reef functioning by promoting fish biodiversity
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Topor_et_al-2019-Conservation_Letters.pdf 1.82 MB

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