Researchers discovered that predatory fish in the Caribbean coral reefs are threatened with extinction. A group of scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has revealed that approximately 90% of all predatory fish living here gone, affecting the ocean ecosystem. Luckily, researchers identified reefs which they called supersites that can support a massive number of predator fish.
If they are reintroduced in this area, they may help with the restoration of the economic and environmental setback affected by overfishing. The new study was led by Abel Valdivia, former UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student together with John Bruno, a marine biologist at UNC College of Arts & Sciences.
The study indicated that these super sites have crannies and nooks on its surface which are perfect hiding spots for prey. These supersites should be protected because they could serve as regional models which display the value of biodiversity for tourism. Other important features of a supersite are the amount of available food, the proximity of mangroves and the size of the reef.
Bruno stated that on land, this type of reef would be protected and developed into a national park like Yellowstone. That national park is capable of supporting a variety of wild animals, being protected by the federal government. The newly developed study was published on March 1st in the Science Advances magazine.
The team of scientists has surveyed about 39 reefs located in the Bahamas, Belize, Mexico, Florida, and Cuba, outside and inside marine reserves. They wanted to determine how much fish was lost by developing a comparison between fish biomass on pristine sites and fish biomass on a typical reef. Researchers estimated the biomass from each location, and this is how they discovered that 90% of all predatory fish were extinct due to overfishing.
Nevertheless, they kept hoping that a small number of reefs would receive protection, thus, being able to support and contribute to the recovery of the populations of predatory fish. Courtney Ellen Cox, a co-author and former UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, claimed that there are certain characteristics in a reef which may influence how many predators could be supported by the supersite.
For instance, the Columbia Reef, Cozumel, Mexico could be able to support ten times the number of current predatory fish if it were protected.
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