Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

The persistence of a key coral reef ecosystem function in a post-bleached world (#144)

Helen Yan 1
  1. James Cook University, Douglas, QUEENSLAND, Australia

As multiple stressors continue to impact coral reefs, understanding the changes in ecosystem functioning is imperative to protect key ecosystem services. We used a 26-year dataset of benthic reef fishes to identify multi-decadal trends in fish biomass production on a degraded coral reef. Following the first mass coral bleaching event in 1998, the abundance, standing biomass, and productivity of fish communities remained remarkably constant through time, despite the occurrence of multiple stressors, including extreme sedimentation, multiple cyclones, and additional mass coral bleaching events. Species richness declined following the 1998 bleaching event, but rebounded to pre-bleaching levels and also remained relatively stable. Although the species composition of the communities is changing, these new community configurations are still able to maintain a steady level of fish biomass production. Consequently, these transitioning systems can still provide some critical ecosystem functions and services, despite increasing degradation.