Human activity selectively impacts the ecosystem roles of parrotfishes on coral reefs

David R. Bellwood, Andrew Hoey, Terence P. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


Around the globe, coral reefs and other marine ecosystems are increasingly overfished. Conventionally, studies of fishing impacts have focused on the population size and dynamics of targeted stocks rather than the broader ecosystem-wide effects of harvesting. Using parrotfishes as an example, we show how coral reef fish populations respond to escalating fishing pressure across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Based on these fish abundance data, we infer the potential impact on four key functional roles performed by parrotfishes. Rates of bioerosion and coral predation are highly sensitive to human activity, whereas grazing and sediment removal are resilient to fishing. Our results offer new insights into the vulnerability and resilience of coral reefs to the ever-growing human footprint. The depletion of fishes causes differential decline of key ecosystem functions, radically changing the dynamics of coral reefs and setting the stage for future ecological surprises. © 2011 The Royal Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1621-1629
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1733
StatePublished - Nov 16 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Medicine


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