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Climate impacts alter fisheries productivity and turnover on coral reefs

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Coral Reefs
Issue number4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)921-935
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/05/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Alteration of benthic reef habitat after coral bleaching and mortality induces changes in fish assemblages, with implications for fisheries. Our understanding of climate impacts to coral reef fisheries is largely based on fish abundance and biomass. The rates at which biomass is produced and replenished (productivity and turnover) are also important to sustaining fisheries, yet the responses of these metrics following bleaching are largely unknown. Here, we examine changes in fish productivity and turnover after mass coral bleaching events in Seychelles, on reefs that were recovering to coral-dominated habitats and those that shifted to macroalgae-dominated regimes. Productivity of fish assemblages increased on all recovering reefs, particularly on fished reefs resulting in levels similar to protected reefs 19 years after bleaching. Herbivore-detritivores, such as scraping and excavating parrotfish, appeared to drive biomass production through increased abundance on recovering reefs. Productivity on regime-shifted reefs remained stable at 1994 levels in fished areas, with increases observed on protected reefs. Large increases in browser productivity (particularly on protected reefs), combined with increases for invertivores, maintained post-bleaching productivity on macroalgal reefs. For all diet groups, net turnover was generally higher on fished regime-shifted reefs than on recovering reefs, suggesting fish biomass is more readily replenished on macroalgal reefs. Reef structural complexity was a positive predictor of productivity for all diet groups. These findings indicate that post-bleaching reef fish productivity is strongly influenced by benthic recovery trajectories, and demonstrates the importance of herbivore and invertivore species in sustaining small-scale inshore fisheries following climatic disturbances.