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!
New approach for environmental test on livestock drugs
27.07.2016 | Universität Zürich
Managing an endangered river across the US-Mexico border
18.07.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.
To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...
A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology
On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
29.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
29.07.2016 | Life Sciences
29.07.2016 | Event News