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World's reef fishes tussling with human overpopulation
Date:4/5/2011

In an unprecedented collaborative analysis published in the journal PLoS Biology, scientists from 49 nations demonstrated that the ability of reef fish systems to produce goods and services to humanity increases rapidly with the number of species. However, growing human populations hamper the ability of reefs to function normally, and counterintuitively, the most diverse reef fish systems suffer the greatest impairments from stressors triggered by human populations. The study documented that the extent of this distress is widespread and likely to worsen because 75% of the world`s reefs are near human settlements and because around 82% of the tropical countries with coral reefs could double their human populations within the next 50 to 100 years.

"Coral reefs provide a range of critical goods and services to humanityeverything from nutrient cycling to food production to coast protection to economic revenues through tourism," says Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University and lead researcher of the study. "Yet the complex nature and large-scale distribution of coral reefs is challenging scientists to understand if this natural ecosystem will continue working to deliver goods and services given the ongoing loss of biodiversity in coral reefs."

"Numerous experiments have showed that biodiversity has positive effects on several ecosystem processes, although the number of species required to ensure the functionality of a given process is fairly low, as many species often have similar ecological roles," says Michel Loreau from McGill University, a co-author of the study. "What remains largely unknown, however, is whether the results of experimental studies reflect what happens in real ecosystems."

To fill this unknown, 55 researchers, in a two-year study, collected the necessary data to determine whether biodiversity influences the efficiency of reef fish systems to produce biomass, and if so, elucidate the role of humans in such a linkage
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Contact: Camilo Mora
cmora@dal.ca
57-313-776-2282
Dalhousie University
Source:Eurekalert

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