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      Invasive Lionfish Drive Atlantic Coral Reef Fish Declines


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          Indo-Pacific lionfish ( Pterois volitans and P. miles) have spread swiftly across the Western Atlantic, producing a marine predator invasion of unparalleled speed and magnitude. There is growing concern that lionfish will affect the structure and function of invaded marine ecosystems, however detrimental impacts on natural communities have yet to be measured. Here we document the response of native fish communities to predation by lionfish populations on nine coral reefs off New Providence Island, Bahamas. We assessed lionfish diet through stomach contents analysis, and quantified changes in fish biomass through visual surveys of lionfish and native fishes at the sites over time. Lionfish abundance increased rapidly between 2004 and 2010, by which time lionfish comprised nearly 40% of the total predator biomass in the system. The increase in lionfish abundance coincided with a 65% decline in the biomass of the lionfish's 42 Atlantic prey fishes in just two years. Without prompt action to control increasing lionfish populations, similar effects across the region may have long-term negative implications for the structure of Atlantic marine communities, as well as the societies and economies that depend on them.

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          Most cited references 19

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          A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2010.

          Horizon scanning identifies emerging issues in a given field sufficiently early to conduct research to inform policy and practice. Our group of horizon scanners, including academics and researchers, convened to identify fifteen nascent issues that could affect the conservation of biological diversity. These include the impacts of and potential human responses to climate change, novel biological and digital technologies, novel pollutants and invasive species. We expect to repeat this process and collation annually. Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Evaluating the Potential Efficacy of Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Removals

            The lionfish, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus) and Pterois miles (Bennett), invasion of the Western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico has the potential to alter aquatic communities and represents a legitimate ecological concern. Several local removal programs have been initiated to control this invasion, but it is not known whether removal efforts can substantially reduce lionfish numbers to ameliorate these concerns. We used an age-structured population model to evaluate the potential efficacy of lionfish removal programs and identified critical data gaps for future studies. We used high and low estimates for uncertain parameters including: length at 50% vulnerability to harvest (Lvul ), instantaneous natural mortality (M), and the Goodyear compensation ratio (CR). The model predicted an annual exploitation rate between 35 and 65% would be required to cause recruitment overfishing on lionfish populations for our baseline parameter estimates for M and CR (0.5 and 15). Lionfish quickly recovered from high removal rates, reaching 90% of unfished biomass six years after a 50-year simulated removal program. Quantifying lionfish natural mortality and the size-selective vulnerability to harvest are the most important knowledge gaps for future research. We suggest complete eradication of lionfish through fishing is unlikely, and substantial reduction of adult abundance will require a long-term commitment and may be feasible only in small, localized areas where annual exploitation can be intense over multiple consecutive years.
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              Reconstructing the lionfish invasion: insights into Greater Caribbean biogeography


                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                7 March 2012
                : 7
                : 3
                [1 ]Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
                [2 ]Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Key Largo, Florida, United States of America
                University of Canterbury, New Zealand
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SJG. Performed the experiments: SJG AM JLA. Analyzed the data: SJG. Wrote the paper: SJG IMC.

                Green et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 3
                Research Article
                Community Ecology
                Ecological Environments
                Marine Ecology
                Marine Biology



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