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Ecol Appl. 2011 Mar;21(2):343-9.

Marine fisheries declines viewed upside down: human impacts on consumer-driven nutrient recycling.

Author information

1
Marine Sciences Program, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st Street, North Miami, Florida 33181, USA. cal1634@yahoo.com

Abstract

We quantified how two human impacts (overfishing and habitat fragmentation) in nearshore marine ecosystems may affect ecosystem function by altering the role of fish as nutrient vectors. We empirically quantified size-specific excretion rates of one of the most abundant fishes (gray snapper, Lutjanus griseus) in The Bahamas and combined these with surveys of fish abundance to estimate population-level excretion rates. The study was conducted across gradients of two human disturbances: overfishing and ecosystem fragmentation (estuaries bisected by roads), to evaluate how each could result in reduced population-level nutrient cycling by consumers. Mean estimated N and P excretion rates for gray snapper populations were on average 456% and 541% higher, respectively, in unfished sites. Ecosystem fragmentation resulted in significant reductions of recycling rates by snapper, with degree of creek fragmentation explaining 86% and 72% of the variance in estimated excretion for dissolved N and P, respectively. Additionally, we used nutrient limitation assays and primary producer nutrient content to provide a simple example of how marine fishery declines may affect primary production. This study provides an initial step toward integrating marine fishery declines and consumer-driven nutrient recycling to more fully understand the implications of human impacts in marine ecosystems.

PMID:
21563567
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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