Coral Bleaching Takes Toll On Reef Fish

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Coral bleaching takes toll on reef fish
17th May 2018

By Sandra Pearce
 
The coral bleaching events that have affected the Great Barrier Reef in recent years have taken their toll on the region’s fish population, according to a new study.
 
While rising temperatures on the reef killed nearly all the coral in some sections, the effects on the wider marine community have been less clear. Now, scientists have begun to establish the long-term effects of bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef’s fish population, reports the Independent.
 
PhD student Laura Richardson of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and her collaborators studied reefs in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, where around two-thirds of corals were killed in the 2016 bleaching event that followed a global heatwave.
 
They assessed the quantity and types of fish present in the reef before, during and after the event. While there were winners and losers among the fish species, overall there was a significant decline in the variety of species following bleaching. Their results were published in the journal Global Change Biology.
 
Predictably, the scientists noted that fish with intimate associations with corals suffered severe losses. Butterflyfish, which feed on corals, faced the steepest declines.