It may be no surprise that marine reserves protect the fish that live in them, but now scientists from the University of Exeter have shown for the first time that they could also help improve the health of coral reefs.
In a paper in the prestigious journal Science, Dr Peter Mumby and colleagues looked at how a marine park in the Bahamas was affected by the return of the reefs top predator, the Nassau Grouper. Researchers were concerned that an increase in groupers could have an adverse effect, because they feed on parrotfish which play a vital role in maintaining the reef ecosystem.
Dr Peter Mumby, from the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter, said: "While an increasing number of larger predators is essentially good news we had concerns that this might result in a decrease in the numbers of parrotfish, which could ultimately damage the health of the reef. More than 20 years ago sea urchins in the Caribbean were wiped out by disease, leaving parrotfish as the main grazer of reef surfaces. The fish use their teeth to remove seaweed from the reef which allows new corals to settle and grow.This grazing process is essential to the health of the system."
Dr Pete Mumby | EurekAlert!
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