Recent region-wide declines in Caribbean reef fish abundance

Michelle J. Paddack, John D. Reynolds, Consuelo Aguilar, Richard S. Appeldoorn, Jim Beets, Edward W. Burkett, Paul M. Chittaro, Kristen Clarke, Rene Esteves, Ana C. Fonseca, Graham E. Forrester, Alan M. Friedlander, Jorge Garci­a-Sais, Gaspar Gonzalez-Sanson, Lance K. B. Jordan, David B. McClellan, Margaret W. Miller, Philip P. Molloy, Peter J. Mumby, Ivan NagelkerkenMichael Nemeth, Raúl Navas-Camacho, Joanna Pitt, Nicholas V. C. Polunin, Maria Catalina Reyes-Nivia, D. Ross Robertson, Alberto Rodriguez-Ramirez, Eva Salas, Struan R. Smith, Richard E. Spieler, Mark A. Steele, Ivor D. Williams, Clare L. Wormald, Andrew R. Watkinson, Isabelle M. Côté

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Profound ecological changes are occurring on coral reefs throughout the tropics [1-3], with marked coral cover losses and concomitant algal increases, particularly in the Caribbean region [4]. Historical declines in the abundance of large Caribbean reef fishes likely reflect centuries of overexploitation [5-7]. However, effects of drastic recent degradation of reef habitats on reef fish assemblages have yet to be established. By using meta-analysis, we analyzed time series of reef fish density obtained from 48 studies that include 318 reefs across the Caribbean and span the time period 1955-2007. Our analyses show that overall reef fish density has been declining significantly for more than a decade, at rates that are consistent across all subregions of the Caribbean basin (2.7% to 6.0% loss per year) and in three of six trophic groups. Changes in fish density over the past half-century are modest relative to concurrent changes in benthic cover on Caribbean reefs. However, the recent significant decline in overall fish abundance and its consistency across several trophic groups and among both fished and nonfished species indicate that Caribbean fishes have begun to respond negatively to habitat degradation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-595
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume19
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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