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Reef fisheries still persist despite depletion of biomass, but their sustainability is fragile

03.07.2023 16:44

Branco Weiss Fellow Renato Morais is first author on a paper published by Nature Sustainability titled “Sustained productivity and the persistence of coral reef fisheries”. The paper discusses how reef fisheries can persist despite the heavy depletion of biomass from the coral reefs, maintaining the livelihoods of millions of fishers. Understanding this persistence is key to sustained reef fisheries in a time of global changes. In their research, the scientists around Dr. Morais combine snapshot fish surveys and individual models of growth and mortality in a novel framework to evaluate potential reef fisheries productivity. They found that although high fishing exploitation drove biomass declines, for a given exploitation level, productivity was consistently larger than expected from the remaining biomass. A detailed look into this phenomenon, however, showed that a reef’s capacity to deliver such ‘buffering productivity’ is conditional on where it is located and on its disturbance history. Thus, while compensatory buffering production may help explain persistent yields in biomass-depleted coral reef fisheries, the sustainability of these yields may be jeopardized by the impacts of climate change.

See the paper in Nature Sustainability

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