Although degrading coral reefs might mean increased productivity for fisheries — offering reef fish fewer places to hide — experts warn that surge will be short-lived, according to a study from the University of Queensland.
"The loss of living corals alters the flora and fauna found in the sea which means less refuges and places to hide for reef fish, and more algae and invertebrates that many reef fish eat," said UQ School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr. Alice Rogers.
However, the study modeled how those factors would affect coral reef communities, food webs and, subsequently, fishery productivity.
"We found that initial losses of living coral, but not erosion of their structure, increased fisheries productivity in the short-term, but productivity increases were from herbivorous fish and smaller fish which may not be the most highly valued targets," Dr. Rogers said.
Dr. Rogers added: "However, when the structure of the reef eroded following coral death, all benefits to the industry were lost."
"Coral reef health around the world is deteriorating, and that could affect the lives of tens of millions of people," said Dr. Rogers.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.