Invasive lionfish drive Atlantic coral reef fish declines.

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Stephanie J Green ; John L Akins ; Aleksandra Maljković ; Isabelle M Côté
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 7, issue 3 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC3296711, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032596
  • Subject: Marine Biology | Q | Ecology | R | Research Article | Biology | Community Ecology | Science | Ecological Environments | Medicine | Marine Ecology

Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) have spread swiftly across the Western Atlantic, producing a marine predator invasion of unparalleled speed and magnitude. There is growing concern that lionfish will affect the structure and function of invaded marine ecosystems, however detrimental impacts on natural communities have yet to be measured. Here we document the response of native fish communities to predation by lionfish populations on nine coral reefs off New Providence Island, Bahamas. We assessed lionfish diet through stomach contents analysis, and quantified changes in fish biomass through visual surveys of lionfish and native fishes at the sites over time. Lionfish abundance increased rapidly between 2004 and 2010, by which time lionfish comprised nearly 40% of the total predator biomass in the system. The increase in lionfish abundance coincided with a 65% decline in the biomass of the lionfish's 42 Atlantic prey fishes in just two years. Without prompt action to control increasing lionfish populations, similar effects across the region may have long-term negative implications for the structure of Atlantic marine communities, as well as the societies and economies that depend on them.
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