A new study reports that an expansion of marine protected areas is needed to protect fish species that perform key ecological functions. According to investigators from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other organizations, previous efforts at protecting fish have focused on saving the largest numbers of species, often at the expense of those species that provide key and difficult-to-replace ecological functions.
Many vital ecological functions of ocean ecology are performed by fish species that also are food for millions of people. This study uncovers a significant problem: the world's most ecologically valuable fish communities are currently vulnerable and are being missed by the world's current network of marine protected areas.
If these tropical fish populations and the ecological services that they provide are to be ensured, say the authors, then the world's existing marine protected area network must be expanded. The paper appears in the current online edition of Ecology Letters.
"The recognition that all species are not the same and that some play more important and different roles in ocean ecology prompted this new investigation. The study was expected to identify regions with vulnerable fish populations, something that has been sidetracked by the past species richness focus," said Dr. Tim McClanahan, WCS Senior Conservationist and a co-author of the study.
"If you lose species with key functions, then you undermine the ability of the ocean to provide food and other ecological services, which is a wake up call to protect these vulnerable species and locations. Our analysis identifies these gaps and should provide the basis to accelerate the protection of ocean functions."
The authors of the study compiled a global database on tropical coastal fish populations from 169 locations around the world, focusing on species occurring in 50 meters of water or less. The team compared these data with distribution maps for 6,316 tropical reef fish species. Human threats such as fishing, pollution, and climate change were also included in the analyses.
What the authors found was that many areas with threatened but functionally important fish were found outside of existing marine protected areas. Also, the study examined other vulnerabilities such as taxonomic sensitivity (the number of threatened species in a fish assemblage or community) and functional sensitivity (the number of functions in danger of being lost because of external threats).
From a regional perspective, the analysis revealed that species richness "hotspots" are located in the Indo-Australian Archipelago and the Caribbean. Species-rich areas for short-ranged fish were located in peripheral zones in the Atlantic as well as the Indo-Pacific.
Areas of high vulnerability included the coastal waters of Chile, the eastern tropical Pacific, and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, areas where comparatively few fish species perform vital environmental functions with few or no redundancies or species that fill similar roles.
"Protecting the ecological services that fish populations provide for coastal habitats is as important as protecting wildlife species themselves," said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of WCS's Marine Program. "This decision theory framework can help marine managers make recommendations about where to place marine protected areas that expand and protect the ocean's ability to provide key services."
The authors of the study are: Valeriano Parravicini of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Domaine du Petit Arbois, and the University of Perpignan; Sébastian Villéger of the Laboratoire Ecologie des Systèmes Marins Côtiers; Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Jesus Ernesto Arias-González of the Laboratorio de Ecología de Ecosistemas de Arrecifes Carolinos; David R. Bellwood of James Cook University; Jonathan Belmaker of Tel Aviv University; Pascale Chabanet of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement; Sergio R. Floeter of the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina; Alan M. Friedlander of the University of Hawaii at Manoa; François Guilhaumon of the Laboratoire Ecologie des Systèmes Marins Côtiers; Laurent Vigliola of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement; Michel Kulbicki of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement; and David Mouillot of the Laboratoire Ecologie des Systèmes Marins Côtiers and James Cook University.
John Delaney | Eurek Alert!
Northern bald ibises fit for their journey to Tuscany
21.08.2015 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Boreal forests challenged by global change
21.08.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.
These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...
Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...
It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.
Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine
28.08.2015 | Life Sciences