Invasive lionfish reduce native fish abundance on a regional scale

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Ballew, Nicholas G. ; Bacheler, Nathan M. ; Kellison, G. Todd ; Schueller, Amy M. (2016)
  • Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
  • Journal: Scientific Reports, volume 6 (issn: 2045-2322, eissn: 2045-2322)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC5005992, doi: 10.1038/srep32169
  • Subject: Article
    mesheuropmc: geographic locations

Invasive lionfish pose an unprecedented threat to biodiversity and fisheries throughout Atlantic waters off of the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Here, we employ a spatially replicated Before-After-Control-Impact analysis with temporal pairing to quantify for the first time the impact of the lionfish invasion on native fish abundance across a broad regional scale and over the entire duration of the lionfish invasion (1990–2014). Our results suggest that 1) lionfish-impacted areas off of the southeastern United States are most prevalent off-shore near the continental shelf-break but are also common near-shore and 2) in impacted areas, lionfish have reduced tomtate (a native forage fish) abundance by 45% since the invasion began. Tomtate served as a model native fish species in our analysis, and as such, it is likely that the lionfish invasion has had similar impacts on other species, some of which may be of economic importance. Barring the development of a control strategy that reverses the lionfish invasion, the abundance of lionfish in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico will likely remain at or above current levels. Consequently, the effect of lionfish on native fish abundance will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
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