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Extinction predictor 'will help protect coral reefs'
Date:2/15/2011

More than a third of coral reef fish species are in jeopardy of local extinction from the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, a new scientific study has found.

(Local extinction refers to the loss of species from individual locations, while they continue to persist elsewhere across their range.)

A new predictive method developed by an international team of marine scientists has found that a third of reef fishes studied across the Indian Ocean are potentially vulnerable to increasing stresses on the reefs due to climate change.

The method also gives coral reef managers vital insights to better protect and manage the world's coral reefs, by showing that local and regional commitment to conservation and sustainable fisheries management improves prospects for coral recovery and persistence between storms and bleaching events.

The team applied their 'extinction risk index' to determine both local and global vulnerability to climate change and human impacts. They tested the method by comparing fish populations before and after the major 1998 El Nino climate event which caused massive coral death and disruption across the Indian Ocean.

In all, 56 of the 134 coral fish species studied were found to be at risk from loss of their habitat, shelter and food sources caused by climate change. Those most in jeopardy were the smaller fishes with specialised eating and sheltering habits. Because most of these species have wide geographic ranges and often quite large local populations, few were at particular risk of global extinction.

"The loss of particular species can have a critical effect on the stability of an entire ecosystem and our ability to look after coral reefs depends on being able to predict which species or groups of fish are most at risk," explains lead author Dr Nick Graham of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University. "Until now, the ability to do this has been fairl
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Contact: Nick Graham
Nick.Graham@jcu.edu.au
61-074-781-6291
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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