New study by PICRC Adjunct Researcher shows the role of herbivorous fishes in the control of seaweed

On March 05, 2020 Professor Peter Mumby, adjunct researcher at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and head of the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab at the University of Queensland, published a paper in the scientific journal, Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS). Titled “Species-specific effect of herbivorous fishes on the establishment of the macroalga Lobophora on coral reefs,” the study shows the importance of herbivorous fishes in maintaining balanced and healthy reefs by reducing competition between corals and seaweed.

Carried out in Palau’s Lighthouse Reef, the research shows that the grazing activities of herbivorous fishes are essential at preventing baby seaweeds from getting established on the reef. “Without these fishes, seaweed will overgrow and will prevent coral recovery,” stated Professor Mumby. At the same time, Dr. Mumby and his team found that the interaction between seaweed and fish is species-specific, with only certain types of fish grazing on specific types of weed. In this case, only three of the studied fish species – Acanthurus nigrofuscus, Chlorurus spilurus and Scarus niger – grazed on the leathery seaweed Lobophora, highlighting the importance of reducing the overfishing of herbivorous fish in order to maintain healthy coral reefs.

As PICRC’s adjunct researcher, Professor Mumby brings new ideas and offers his expertise on new survey designs, scientific publishing, and solid science. “We are very grateful for having Professor Mumby’s partnership. Throughout the past ten years, he has been essential in building the Center’s capacity,” stated PICRC CEO, Yimnang Golbuu.

Professor Mumby added, “I love working with my colleagues at PICRC. Together we’re learning so much about how to maintain healthy reefs in Palau and the balance between conservation and exploitation.”