The lawnmowers of coral reef


In the first global snapshot of its kind, a team of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography has shown how overfishing has impacted seaweed-eating fish that are vital to coral reef health. Study leader Jennifer Smith says there are many species of fish and invertebrates that act as lawnmowers in these fragile ecosystems.

If you take away the lawnmower or the weed whackers in your own yard, you know what happens. You get the weeds growing and they will grow over, out-compete the plants that you are trying to cultivate. The same things happens on a coral reef where, if you don’t have the lawnmowers, these weeds can overgrow and out-compete the corals, which are the ecosystem engineers.

Smith says their study found that populations of plant-eating fish declined by more than half in areas that were overfished.

One of the goals is to help many places develop better management and conservation strategies for their coral reef ecosystem across the Pacific and Caribbean.

5 thoughts on “The lawnmowers of coral reef

  1. u14103835 Jean-Mari Bezuidenhout

    Coral reefs are a very important part of the oceanic ecosystem and we must do everything in our power to preserve it. The over-fishing caused by humans have a grave effect on the balance of these ecosystems and this problems not only effect the living organisms living on the reef, but also any aspects affected by these organisms, like plant life, animals preying on these organisms and even humans. When over fishing causes plant-eating fish to decline and the plant life isn’t held in-check, the ecosystem is thrown out of balance. Reefs are being overrun by plants making the reef inhabitable for some species and these species either die out of move on to better habitats, causing an even bigger imbalance in the ecosystem.

  2. 14044782 Chanel

    I agree with u14103835 Jean-Mari Bezuidenhout, coral reefs are very important. They house-vest millions of different organisms and most of them can only survive in a coral reef. So it is crucial for us to keep our coral reefs alive to ensure the existence of some of the organisms. We must help the fight in keeping the over-fishing numbers at their lowest.

  3. Mick Taylor

    Coral reefs are an extremely important part of the oceanographic ecosystem not only in terms of providing housing and a safe haven for many varieties of fish and other aquatic creatures but also in the regard of providing a food source for many marine organisms. It is therefore highly important that we do our utmost best to preserve these coral reefs and in doing so, we indirectly are protecting the fish stocks on a large scale. We are essentially killing two birds with one stone. We’re attempting to save the coral reefs but also assisting the fish to have a safe environment to lay their eggs and reproduce. If we succeed at preserving these reefs, a significant increase in the number of bottom feeders as well as pelagic fish speciesmwill be noticed.

  4. 14083002

    It is very necessary that we head the warning put forward in this article about over fishing, as not only does it have the more well-known direct impacts such as killing out species, but it is becoming a destroyer of now a whole ecosystem. Coral reefs are the backbone of life to so many varieties of species in the aquatic realm, it’s imperative they be maintained and preserved. They provide food shelter and even oxygen, allowing all these species to survive, and by us as humans killing out the species that maintain the well being of the coral that grows there, we are indirectly destroying and entire, extremely important ecosystem. This doesn’t only ripple negatively throughout the aquatic realm, where there will now be imbalances in the food chain as species die out, but there are also numerous negative implications for us humans. As outlined in the article, coral reefs provide a huge source of tourism and house many different species that we use for food, as well as hold aesthetic value. The loss of these species would dent our economy, and the lives of many people that rely on the reefs for their everyday lives.

  5. Prudence Masufi (14242134)

    “Coral reefs are very beautiful and they are like undersea cities filled with colourful fish” said by divers. I agree with those saying that coral reefs are important as they play an essential role in everything from water filtration and fish reproduction shore line protection and erosion prevention. As a function of protection it means that if sea and ocean does not have the coral reefs it means the ecosystem it will be bad. In conclusion I see the coral reefs as special plants in aquatic life.

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