Mar 7, 2012

Invasive Lionfish Drive Atlantic Coral Reef Fish Declines

Stephanie J. Green, John L. Akins, Aleksandra Maljković, Isabelle M. Côté
Plos One
  • States that Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) have spread swiftly across the Western Atlantic, producing a marine predator invasion of unparalleled speed and magnitude
  • States there is growing concern that lionfish will affect the structure and function of invaded marine ecosystems, however detrimental impacts on natural communities have yet to be measured
  • Documents the response of native fish communities to predation by lionfish populations on nine coral reefs off New Providence Island, Bahamas
  • Assesses lionfish diet through stomach contents analysis, and quantifies changes in fish biomass through visual surveys of lionfish and native fishes at the sites over time
  • Finds that lionfish abundance increased rapidly between 2004 and 2010, by which time lionfish comprised nearly 40% of the total predator biomass in the system
  • Finds the increase in lionfish abundance coincided with a 65% decline in the biomass of the lionfish's 42 Atlantic prey fishes in just two years
  • Results suggest that without prompt action to control increasing lionfish populations, similar effects across the region may have long-term negative implications for the structure of Atlantic marine communities, as well as the societies and economies that depend on them