Reducing Lionfish Population Aids in Recovery of Native Marine Life in the Atlantic Ocean [VIDEO]
The increasing density of lionfish population, an invasive predator, has wiped out over 90 percent of Atlantic's native marine life. A recent research states that if these species are controlled then the marine ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean can get a boost.
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How and when the lionfish (Pterois), a marine fish that originated in Indo-Pacific, landed along the east coast of the Atlantic Ocean remains a mystery. But ever since their invasion of the Atlantic, the native marine life suffered an almost 95 percent reduction. In a latest study, scientists claim that an all-out war on the voracious and venomous lionfish has made some progress.
Researchers at the Oregon State University, Simon Fraser University and other institutions reveal that lowering the population of the invasive lionfish by a specified number can help in the rapid recovery of the native fish.
This is the first positive hope seen in the ongoing struggle against the soaring lionfish population in the western Atlantic Ocean.
The researchers, using computer models and 18 months of field tests on reefs, found that lowering the lionfish population by a specified number, 75-95 percent in the studied locations, helped in the rapid recovery of the native fish and even extended to include the recovery of the larger ecosystem.
"This is excellent news," Stephanie Green, a marine ecologist in the College of Science at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "It shows that by creating safe havens, small pockets of reef where lionfish numbers are kept low, we can help native species recover. And we don't have to catch every lionfish to do it."
Ecological modeling was used by the scientists to determine what percentage of lionfish needed to be controlled to see a sizeable recovery in the native population of the studied sites. The model was then tested at 24 coral reefs near the Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. For this they removed a particular number of lionfish from the region. They noticed that by keeping the lionfish population low in this area, the number of native prey fish increased by 50-70 percent. In regions where no changes were made, the population of native species continued to drop.
Some of the native fish that recovered were Nassau grouper and yellowtail snapper. This is the first study to show that lowering the invasive species below the environmental threshold helps in an immediate rise of the native marine life. It is also important to keep the lionfish population low in hot spot regions like mangroves and shallow reefs for juvenile fish.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Ecological Applications.