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

. The team collected demographic data on human populations as well as environmental and biological data on the identity of species, their abundances and body sizes in almost two thousand coral reef locations worldwide. The data on abundance and body size were used to calculate the cumulative weight of all fishes on each reef (also called standing biomass), which is one of the main services reef fishes provide to humanity through food supply but also a very close proxy for how effectively ecosystems produce biomass.

"The results of the study were stunning," says co-author Kevin Gaston at Sheffield University. "While experimental studies have elucidated that the biomass production of ecosystems stabilizes after a certain number of species is reached, this field study demonstrated that the production of biomass in reef fish systems did not saturate with the addition of new species."

"This study shows, quite simply, that the more biodiversity, the better," says co-author Marah Hardt with OceanInk. "The benefits appear limitless, if we allow ecosystems to operate at their full potential."

"The reasons leading to a non-saturating relationship between diversity and biomass production are intriguing," says coauthor Michel Kulbicki at the French Institute for Research and Development. "Nevertheless, this strong relationship clearly indicates that species interact in such a way that their combined effect is larger than the addition of their individual parts and that the loss of species can have far-reaching consequences in the functioning of coral reefs."

The study also demonstrated that standing biomass reduced with increasing human density, although for the same number of people the reduction of biomass was significantly larger in more diverse ecosystems. The authors presume that the stronger deleterious effect of humanity on more diverse reefs is due to the selective extirpation of large fishes, which are often more efficient at turni
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Contact: Camilo Mora
cmora@dal.ca
57-313-776-2282
Dalhousie University
Source:Eurekalert

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