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A Reef Too Far?

Goldtail damselfish. Credit: Mary Bonin

Goldtail damselfish. Credit: Mary Bonin

By Mary Bonin, Glenn Almany & Geoff Jones

Coral reefs are being subjected to more disturbances than ever before, but a new study has surprisingly found that reef fish can benefit from habitat fragmentation.

Mary Bonin is a postdoctoral researcher in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the School of Marine and Tropical Biology at James Cook University. Glenn Almany is a Future Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU. Geoff Jones is a Professor in the School of Marine and Tropical Biology at JCU and a Chief Investigator in the Centre.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Corals are pretty amazing animals. These tiny creatures are capable of building huge reef structures like the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest structure created by animals and can be seen from outer space.

Corals are like the trees in a rainforest, providing habitat for the animals that make reefs their home. They are so important to the coral reef fish community that at least 10% of the fish species on the Great Barrier Reef cannot survive without live corals.

Living corals are especially important for juvenile fish, which shelter in coral branches to avoid predators. The survival of these young fish is critical for the replenishment of adult populations – fewer juveniles mean fewer adults.

Unfortunately, these vital coral habitats are subjected to more frequent and intense disturbances than ever before. Every summer, severe tropical storms leave large expanses of coral habitat battered and broken. Warming ocean temperatures are causing more frequent coral bleaching events, which can kill corals and cause widespread habitat degradation. These habitats are also increasingly threatened by outbreaks of disease, predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, and decreased water quality due to coastal deforestation and development.

As a consequence of these impacts, the coral habitat is already extensively damaged on 20% of the world’s coral...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.