Coral reefs are among the most sensitive ecosystems on the planet. Climate change is drastically impacting coral reef ecosystems through sea level rise, ocean warming, ocean acidification, and changes in weather patterns.
Apart from these stressors for corals, corallivorous fish are also considered harmful to coral reefs. The grazing fish cause physical damage to the corals with their bites.
However, a new study by researchers from Rice University challenges this notion and suggests that these fish actually contribute to a reef’s overall health.
Research says that corallivore feces contribute to a reef’s overall health
The scientists found that corallivore feces contain essential nutrients that act as ‘coral probiotics’ to support a thriving coral reef ecosystem. While the fish caused lesions or death in all coral pieces, feces from corallivores rarely caused death…thus keeping the reefs healthy.
Dr. Carsten Grupstra, of Rice University, the lead author of the study said, “More research needs to be done to test how fish feces affect corals to see how we might use these feces in management efforts to support coral reef health,”
He said, “I think [at the moment] there hasn’t been a lot of research into fish species and how they affect corals, but this might be really important in coral reef ecology. We’ve seen some other labs publishing stuff about microbes in fish feces, so I really hope more people look into this because it’s interesting and could provide a new angle.”