Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Biodiversity protects fish from climate change


Diverse fish communities more productive and resistant to changing temperatures

Fish provide protein to billions of people and are an especially critical food source in the developing world. Today marine biologists confirmed a key factor that could help them thrive through the coming decades: biodiversity. Communities with more fish species are more productive and more resilient to rising temperatures and temperature swings, according to a new study from the Smithsonian's Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network and other international institutions.

These are reef fishes in the global center of fish diversity, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith

The accelerating loss and rearrangement of species all over the globe have troubled scientists and the public for decades. But the question of whether biodiversity offers practical value--for humans and ecosystems--remained controversial. The new study, published May 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers the most thorough proof yet that preserving marine biodiversity can benefit people as much as it benefits the oceans.

"Biodiversity is more than a pretty face," said lead author Emmett Duffy, director of the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network and senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. "Preserving biodiversity is not just an aesthetic or spiritual issue--it's critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the important services they provide to humans, like seafood."

The discovery came out of the Reef Life Survey, a comprehensive program that has conducted surveys of more than 3,000 fish species in 44 countries around the world. Many of the surveyors were volunteer citizen scientists, about a third of whom had no scientific background. Volunteer divers from 11 countries received training from the program's lead scientists at the University of Tasmania to collect data using standardized methods.

"This study is based on more than 4,000 underwater surveys," said co-author Rick Stuart-Smith of the University of Tasmania. "It was only possible with the enthusiastic contributions of highly trained volunteer divers in the Reef Life Survey program, which allowed us to achieve this comprehensive coverage of the world's reefs, from tropical to polar waters."

Armed with the most comprehensive global dataset on marine biodiversity involving standardized counts, the researchers tracked how 11 different environmental factors influenced total fish biomass on coral and rocky reefs around the world. Surprisingly, one of the strongest influences was biodiversity: The number of species (species richness) and the variety in how they use their environment (functional diversity) enhanced fish biomass. The boost in fish resources provided by biodiversity was second only to that of warm temperatures.

Temperature had a more complex relationship with fish biomass: Warmer ocean temperatures tended to boost fish biomass on average, while wider temperature fluctuations hindered it. But biodiversity made fish communities more resilient against changing climate. In communities with only a few species, fish biomass tended to increase with rising temperatures until seas warmed above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit)--at which point biomass started to fall. But communities with many species remained stable at these higher temperatures.

The researchers found a similar buffering effect of diversity against temperature swings. While both high- and low-diversity communities were less productive under fluctuating temperatures, high-diversity communities suffered only half as much as low-diversity ones. The researchers suspect communities with more species are better equipped to handle temperature changes because they have more of their bases covered. When temperatures fluctuate, a community with numerous species has better odds that at least a few species can thrive in the new normal.

"This work is a critical step forward in linking insights from experiments in buckets and garden plots to the larger world," said co-author Jonathan Lefcheck of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, referring to earlier biodiversity experiments done with plants and small animals in gardens or greenhouses. "It shows that experimental ecologists have in fact been on the right track for 20 years, and that biodiversity is paramount to how natural systems work."

"Results demonstrate that preserving local biodiversity is not only an ethical directive with aesthetical and genetic insurance value, but that it is an imperative for human life," said co-author Sergio Navarrete of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.


Video and images are available upon request. For multimedia, a copy of the paper or to speak to the authors, contact Kristen Minogue at 443-482-2325 or

Media Contact

Kristen Minogue

Kristen Minogue | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Biodiversity Reef biomass fish species marine biodiversity

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>