ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2007) — Coral reefs could be damaged beyond repair, unless we change the way we manage the marine environment. New research by the Universities of Exeter and California Davis, published November 1, 2007 in Nature, shows how damaged Caribbean reefs will continue to decline over the next 50 years.
In the 1980s, reefs in the Caribbean were hit by the devastating impact of the near-extinction of the herbivorous urchin, Diadema antillarum, with devastating results. Along with parrotfish, this grazing urchin kept seaweed levels down, creating space for coral to grow. Parrotfish are now the sole grazers of seaweed on many Caribbean reefs, but fishing has limited their numbers. With insufficient parrotfish grazing, corals are unable to recover after major disturbances like hurricanes and become much less healthy as a result. The team discovered this result by creating and testing a computer model that simulates the effects of many factors on the health of Caribbean reefs.
A paper released by Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Exeter, says that in order to secure a future for coral reefs, particularly in light of the predicted impact of climate change, parrotfish need to be protected.
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