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Here's why algae-eating fish are key to saving coral reefs

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Here's why algae-eating fish are key to saving coral reefs
Protecting the fish that keep algae in check leads to healthier coral reefs and can promote the recovery of distressed reefs.
  • Protecting algae-eating fish may not be enough to save endangered coral reefs, a new study shows.
  • Researchers have advocated restoring populations of algae-eating reef fish in order to boost resilience of the world’s coral reefs.
  • Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, but they are also among the most imperilled and rapidly changing.

Some researchers, resource managers, and conservationists have advocated restoring populations of algae-eating reef fish, such as parrotfish in order to boost resilience of the world’s coral reefs.

According to this idea, which is known as fish-mediated resilience, protecting the fish that keep algae in check leads to healthier corals and can promote the recovery of distressed reefs.

But the new study that analyzed long-term data from 57 coral reefs around the French Polynesian island of Mo’orea challenges this canon of coral reef ecology, providing compelling new evidence that fish don’t regulate coral over time.

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