SPACES Co-investigators, Tim McClanahan and Nyawira Muthiga, have recently published the paper, Similar impacts of fishing and environmental stress on calcifying organisms in Indian Ocean coral reefs (Open Access– free to read) in the Marine Ecology Progress Series. They investigated coral and calcifier cover in 201 western Indian Ocean reefs. 

McClanahan and Muthiga found that coral and calcifier cover were negatively impacted by ocean temperatures and sea urchins. However, they also found that coral and calcifier cover were positively correlated with the orange-lined triggerfish, a small predatory fish. They found that reefs with higher calcifier abundance also had a higher abundance of orange-lined triggerfish and lower abundance of sea urchins.

The investigators surmise that orange-lined triggerfish may help reduce sea urchin populations. This is positive for reefs because sea urchins inhibit coral reef regeneration and growth when their numbers become too large. In addition, McClanahan suggests that the orange-lined triggerfish may help dissipate calcification loss predicted by climate change. Hence, he proposes that a successful coral reef conservation and management strategy would be to protect the orange-lined triggerfish, coral reefs’ unsung hero.

Link to the full publication here: Similar impacts of fishing and environmental stress on calcifying organisms in Indian Ocean coral reefs

Link to the World Conservation Society’s news release here.