Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes

M. Aaron MacNeil, Nicholas A J Graham, Joshua E. Cinner, Shaun K. Wilson, Ivor D. Williams, Joseph Maina, Steven Newman, Alan M. Friedlander, Stacy Jupiter, Nicholas V C Polunin, Tim R. McClanahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Continuing degradation of coral reef ecosystems has generated substantial interest in how management can support reef resilience. Fishing is the primary source of diminished reef function globally, leading to widespread calls for additional marine reserves to recover fish biomass and restore key ecosystem functions. Yet there are no established baselines for determining when these conservation objectives have been met or whether alternative management strategies provide similar ecosystem benefits. Here we establish empirical conservation benchmarks and fish biomass recovery timelines against which coral reefs can be assessed and managed by studying the recovery potential of more than 800 coral reefs along an exploitation gradient. We show that resident reef fish biomass in the absence of fishing (B0) averages ∼1,000 kg ha-1, and that the vast majority (83%) of fished reefs are missing more than half their expected biomass, with severe consequences for key ecosystem functions such as predation. Given protection from fishing, reef fish biomass has the potential to recover within 35 years on average and less than 60 years when heavily depleted. Notably, alternative fisheries restrictions are largely (64%) successful at maintaining biomass above 50% of B0, sustaining key functions such as herbivory. Our results demonstrate that crucial ecosystem functions can be maintained through a range of fisheries restrictions, allowing coral reef managers to develop recovery plans that meet conservation and livelihood objectives in areas where marine reserves are not socially or politically feasible solutions.

LanguageEnglish
Pages341-344
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume520
Issue number7547
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Coral Reefs
Biomass
Ecosystem
Fishes
Fisheries
Benchmarking
Herbivory

Cite this

MacNeil, M. A., Graham, N. A. J., Cinner, J. E., Wilson, S. K., Williams, I. D., Maina, J., ... McClanahan, T. R. (2015). Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes. Nature, 520(7547), 341-344. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14358
MacNeil, M. Aaron ; Graham, Nicholas A J ; Cinner, Joshua E. ; Wilson, Shaun K. ; Williams, Ivor D. ; Maina, Joseph ; Newman, Steven ; Friedlander, Alan M. ; Jupiter, Stacy ; Polunin, Nicholas V C ; McClanahan, Tim R. / Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes. In: Nature. 2015 ; Vol. 520, No. 7547. pp. 341-344.
@article{c00a1b834f924bea95920b87bbbb8c21,
title = "Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes",
abstract = "Continuing degradation of coral reef ecosystems has generated substantial interest in how management can support reef resilience. Fishing is the primary source of diminished reef function globally, leading to widespread calls for additional marine reserves to recover fish biomass and restore key ecosystem functions. Yet there are no established baselines for determining when these conservation objectives have been met or whether alternative management strategies provide similar ecosystem benefits. Here we establish empirical conservation benchmarks and fish biomass recovery timelines against which coral reefs can be assessed and managed by studying the recovery potential of more than 800 coral reefs along an exploitation gradient. We show that resident reef fish biomass in the absence of fishing (B0) averages ∼1,000 kg ha-1, and that the vast majority (83{\%}) of fished reefs are missing more than half their expected biomass, with severe consequences for key ecosystem functions such as predation. Given protection from fishing, reef fish biomass has the potential to recover within 35 years on average and less than 60 years when heavily depleted. Notably, alternative fisheries restrictions are largely (64{\%}) successful at maintaining biomass above 50{\%} of B0, sustaining key functions such as herbivory. Our results demonstrate that crucial ecosystem functions can be maintained through a range of fisheries restrictions, allowing coral reef managers to develop recovery plans that meet conservation and livelihood objectives in areas where marine reserves are not socially or politically feasible solutions.",
author = "MacNeil, {M. Aaron} and Graham, {Nicholas A J} and Cinner, {Joshua E.} and Wilson, {Shaun K.} and Williams, {Ivor D.} and Joseph Maina and Steven Newman and Friedlander, {Alan M.} and Stacy Jupiter and Polunin, {Nicholas V C} and McClanahan, {Tim R.}",
year = "2015",
month = "4",
day = "15",
doi = "10.1038/nature14358",
language = "English",
volume = "520",
pages = "341--344",
journal = "Nature",
issn = "1476-4687",
publisher = "Nature Publishing Groups",
number = "7547",

}

MacNeil, MA, Graham, NAJ, Cinner, JE, Wilson, SK, Williams, ID, Maina, J, Newman, S, Friedlander, AM, Jupiter, S, Polunin, NVC & McClanahan, TR 2015, 'Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes', Nature, vol. 520, no. 7547, pp. 341-344. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14358

Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes. / MacNeil, M. Aaron; Graham, Nicholas A J; Cinner, Joshua E.; Wilson, Shaun K.; Williams, Ivor D.; Maina, Joseph; Newman, Steven; Friedlander, Alan M.; Jupiter, Stacy; Polunin, Nicholas V C; McClanahan, Tim R.

In: Nature, Vol. 520, No. 7547, 15.04.2015, p. 341-344.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes

AU - MacNeil, M. Aaron

AU - Graham, Nicholas A J

AU - Cinner, Joshua E.

AU - Wilson, Shaun K.

AU - Williams, Ivor D.

AU - Maina, Joseph

AU - Newman, Steven

AU - Friedlander, Alan M.

AU - Jupiter, Stacy

AU - Polunin, Nicholas V C

AU - McClanahan, Tim R.

PY - 2015/4/15

Y1 - 2015/4/15

N2 - Continuing degradation of coral reef ecosystems has generated substantial interest in how management can support reef resilience. Fishing is the primary source of diminished reef function globally, leading to widespread calls for additional marine reserves to recover fish biomass and restore key ecosystem functions. Yet there are no established baselines for determining when these conservation objectives have been met or whether alternative management strategies provide similar ecosystem benefits. Here we establish empirical conservation benchmarks and fish biomass recovery timelines against which coral reefs can be assessed and managed by studying the recovery potential of more than 800 coral reefs along an exploitation gradient. We show that resident reef fish biomass in the absence of fishing (B0) averages ∼1,000 kg ha-1, and that the vast majority (83%) of fished reefs are missing more than half their expected biomass, with severe consequences for key ecosystem functions such as predation. Given protection from fishing, reef fish biomass has the potential to recover within 35 years on average and less than 60 years when heavily depleted. Notably, alternative fisheries restrictions are largely (64%) successful at maintaining biomass above 50% of B0, sustaining key functions such as herbivory. Our results demonstrate that crucial ecosystem functions can be maintained through a range of fisheries restrictions, allowing coral reef managers to develop recovery plans that meet conservation and livelihood objectives in areas where marine reserves are not socially or politically feasible solutions.

AB - Continuing degradation of coral reef ecosystems has generated substantial interest in how management can support reef resilience. Fishing is the primary source of diminished reef function globally, leading to widespread calls for additional marine reserves to recover fish biomass and restore key ecosystem functions. Yet there are no established baselines for determining when these conservation objectives have been met or whether alternative management strategies provide similar ecosystem benefits. Here we establish empirical conservation benchmarks and fish biomass recovery timelines against which coral reefs can be assessed and managed by studying the recovery potential of more than 800 coral reefs along an exploitation gradient. We show that resident reef fish biomass in the absence of fishing (B0) averages ∼1,000 kg ha-1, and that the vast majority (83%) of fished reefs are missing more than half their expected biomass, with severe consequences for key ecosystem functions such as predation. Given protection from fishing, reef fish biomass has the potential to recover within 35 years on average and less than 60 years when heavily depleted. Notably, alternative fisheries restrictions are largely (64%) successful at maintaining biomass above 50% of B0, sustaining key functions such as herbivory. Our results demonstrate that crucial ecosystem functions can be maintained through a range of fisheries restrictions, allowing coral reef managers to develop recovery plans that meet conservation and livelihood objectives in areas where marine reserves are not socially or politically feasible solutions.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84928395217&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1038/nature14358

DO - 10.1038/nature14358

M3 - Article

VL - 520

SP - 341

EP - 344

JO - Nature

T2 - Nature

JF - Nature

SN - 1476-4687

IS - 7547

ER -

MacNeil MA, Graham NAJ, Cinner JE, Wilson SK, Williams ID, Maina J et al. Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes. Nature. 2015 Apr 15;520(7547):341-344. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14358