1

People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.

2

Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution

3

Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image
Menu
Facebook Twitter YouTube FlickR

Healthy mangroves help coral reef fisheries under climate stress

13
Nov 2019

A new study highlights how healthy mangroves can help some coral reef fish navigate the impacts of climate change.

Co-author Professor Peter Mumby, from the ARC Centre of Excellence at the University of Queensland (Coral CoE at UQ), said warming seas cause corals to bleach and reefs to lose their structural complexity—in the process also losing the hiding places that support thousands of fish.

“When a young fish arrives at a degraded reef it has nowhere to hide and is easily targeted by predators,” he said.

“Of course, predators experience the same problem when they’re young. The entire food web becomes unproductive and few fish survive.”

Despite the alarming trend, the team found mangroves provided a partial solution.

“We know some reef fish can use mangroves as an alternative nursery habitat to the reef,” Prof Mumby said.

“Mangroves provide a calm, safe environment with plenty of food and allow fish to grow larger before heading out to the reef as adults.”

The study compared and validated model predictions with field data from Belize.

Lead author Dr Alice Rogers, from the Victoria University of Wellington, said the results should inform reef fisheries management strategies protecting areas now and in the future.

“Mangrove nurseries essentially allow some fish to sidestep the challenges of early life on a degraded reef,” she said.

“Mangrove restoration can be important, but in places where that’s impossible future research might examine adapting structures to offer mangrove-like nursery functions.”

“This would be in environments that either do not support natural mangrove forests, or have too large a tidal range to provide stable nursery functions in coastal fringes.”

The study says while the results offer a glimmer of hope, this does not undermine the importance of healthy coral reef habitats—nor the impacts of their degradation and loss.

Prof Mumby said the protection and restoration of mangrove habitats should remain a priority.

“While we need to take every effort to prevent reef degradation, our study reveals that healthy mangrove forests can help buffer the effects of habitat loss on reef fisheries.”

“It’s critical that they remain a priority as part of the battle to mitigate climate change impacts on coral reefs.”

“Ultimately, we need to protect intact combinations of both mangroves and coral reefs,” Prof Mumby said.

###

PAPER
Rogers A, Mumby P (2019). PLOS Biology. ‘Mangroves reduce the vulnerability of coral reef fisheries to habitat degradation’. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000510

IMAGES
High-resolution images for this story are available via Dropbox.

CONTACTS

Prof Peter Mumby
E: p.j.mumby@uq.edu.au
P: +61 (0)7 3365 1686

Dr Alice Rogers
E: alice.rogers@vuw.ac.nz

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Melissa Lyne
Media Manager, Coral CoE
E: melissa.lyne@jcu.edu.au
P: + 61 (0)415 514 328

Healthy mangroves can offer some young reef fish some respite from climate change impacts. Credit: Pete Mumby.
Healthy mangroves can offer some young reef fish some respite from climate change impacts. Credit: Pete Mumby.

Seminars

More
Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

Partner Partner Partner Partner
Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au