SAFS in the News: Big fish — and their pee — are key parts of coral reef ecosystems

SAFS postdoctoral researcher Jacob Allgeier is featured in UW Today:

‘Coral reefs wouldn’t be the same without their beautiful fish.

A diversity of colorful, beautifully patterned species lives in tandem with coral reefs around the world, having adapted their appearance, body structure and lifestyle to take refuge in the folds of spiny, spongy, slippery reefs.

Recent studies suggest that coral reefs, however, are just as dependent on these fish for key nutrients that help coral grow. When fish urinate, they release phosphorus into the water. This phosphorus, along with nitrogen excreted as ammonium through the gills of fish, is crucial to the survival and growth of coral reefs.

A new study appearing Aug. 16 in Nature Communications takes this a step further, finding that in coral reefs where fishing occurs, nearly half of these key nutrients are absent from the ecosystem.

The main reason? Fewer large-bodied and predator fish to pee nutrients into the water, the study found.

“Part of the reason coral reefs work is because animals play a big role in moving nutrients around,” said lead author Jacob Allgeier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.’

Article and excerpt by Michelle Ma

Read the whole article here

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