When fish urinate, they release several nutrients, which are crucial to the survival and growth of coral reefs.
Coral reefs provide food and shelter for a wide range of marine life. But this relationship is not symbiotic. A new research suggests that coral reefs also depend on marine animals for their survival and growth. Thus, this setup offers mutual benefits for both coral and marine biodiversity
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Researchers from University of Washington have found that fish species are a key part of delicate ecosystems of coral reefs. When fish urinate, they release phosphorus and nitrogen, which are crucial to the survival and growth of coral reefs. But surprisingly a large amount of these nutrients are missing from the ecosystem today, pointing to the fact that not many fish are there to pee into the water and to provide nutrients to the coral reefs.
“Part of the reason coral reefs work is because animals play a big role in moving nutrients around,” said lead author Jacob Allgeier,
“Fish hold a large proportion, if not most of the nutrients in a coral reef in their tissue, and they’re also in charge of recycling them. If you take the big fish out, you’re removing all of those nutrients from the ecosystem.”
Researchers surveyed 143 fish species at 110 sites in 43 coral reef systems across Caribbean and tried to assess what impact the lack of fish species can have on coral reefs.
Researchers found that reefs with large fish species had sufficient levels of nutrients while reefs where large predator fish are almost gone lacked nearly half of the nutrients.
It does not necessarily mean that coral reefs systems contain less number of fish today. Instead, the reduction in fish pee is driven by the reduction of large-bodied fish and predator fish such as grouper, snapper or barracuda, which are now less in numbers due to selective fishing practices. Selective fishing refers to the form of fishing which targets specific fish populations and is done by using special gear or nets.
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The findings could help assist conservation efforts intended towards the recovery of both coral reefs and large fish species.