eCite Digital Repository

Reef fishes at all trophic levels respond positively to effective marine protected areas


Soler, GA and Edgar, GJ and Thomson, RJ and Kininmonth, S and Campbell, SJ and Dawson, TP and Barrett, NS and Bernard, ATF and Galvan, DE and Willis, TJ and Alexander, TJ and Stuart-Smith, RD, Reef fishes at all trophic levels respond positively to effective marine protected areas, PloS One, 10, (10) Article e0140270. ISSN 1932-6203 (2015) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2015 Soler et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140270


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) offer a unique opportunity to test the assumption that fishing pressure affects some trophic groups more than others. Removal of larger predators through fishing is often suggested to have positive flow-on effects for some lower trophic groups, in which case protection from fishing should result in suppression of lower trophic groups as predator populations recover. We tested this by assessing differences in the trophic structure of reef fish communities associated with 79 MPAs and open-access sites worldwide, using a standardised quantitative dataset on reef fish community structure. The biomass of all major trophic groups (higher carnivores, benthic carnivores, planktivores and herbivores) was significantly greater (by 40% - 200%) in effective no-take MPAs relative to fished open-access areas. This effect was most pronounced for individuals in large size classes, but with no size class of any trophic group showing signs of depressed biomass in MPAs, as predicted from higher predator abundance. Thus, greater biomass in effective MPAs implies that exploitation on shallow rocky and coral reefs negatively affects biomass of all fish trophic groups and size classes. These direct effects of fishing on trophic structure appear stronger than any top down effects on lower trophic levels that would be imposed by intact predator populations. We propose that exploitation affects fish assemblages at all trophic levels, and that local ecosystem function is generally modified by fishing.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:MPA, Reef Life Survey, marine reserves
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Soler, GA (Mr German Soler Alarcon)
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
UTAS Author:Thomson, RJ (Miss Rebecca Thomson)
UTAS Author:Kininmonth, S (Dr Stuart Kininmonth)
UTAS Author:Barrett, NS (Associate Professor Neville Barrett)
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
ID Code:103540
Year Published:2015
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP100200122)
Web of Science® Times Cited:38
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2015-10-15
Last Modified:2017-11-01
Downloads:202 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page