Fish diversity fighting disease

New research linking coral disease to overfishing promises to help combat alarming levels of coral reef degradation worldwide.

Focussing on 14 sites in the central Philippines, researchers from the CRTR Program's Coral Disease Working Group found that well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) tended to have higher fish diversity and lower disease prevalence.

In a paper published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers said this was probably because fishing removes groups of fish that play an important role in the reef’s ecosystem, including predators that regulate species numbers.

And even in reefs that were fished, those with greater fish diversity typically had less disease.

The researchers, led by Laurie J. Raymundo, also found that the presence of coral-feeding butterfly fishes, which are not targeted by fishers, were linked to higher levels of disease.

Their findings were supported by another large-scale dataset from the Great Barrier Reef and provide an important contribution to an area which has been poorly understood.

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