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Local Human Impacts Disrupt Depth-Dependent Zonation of Tropical Reef Fish Communities

September 25, 2023

We assess whether a depth gradient consistently predicts variation in reef fish biomass.

The influence of depth and associated gradients in light, nutrients and plankton on the ecological organization of tropical reef communities was first described over six decades ago but remains untested across broad geographies.

During this time humans have become the dominant driver of planetary change, requiring that we revisit historic ecological paradigms to ensure they capture the dynamics of contemporary ecological systems. 

We reveal predictable ecological organization at unpopulated locations, with increased biomass of planktivores and piscivores and decreased primary consumer biomass with increasing depth.

Our findings expose limitations of the paradigm for predicting ecological dynamics where human impacts confound connections between ecological communities and their surrounding environment.

Richardson LE, Heenan A, Delargy AJ, Neubauer P, Lecky J, Gove JM,Mattias Green JAM, Kindinger TL, Ingeman KE, Williams GJ 2023. Local human impacts disrupt depth-dependent zonation of tropical reef fish communities Nat Ecol Evol (2023).

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 09/28/2023