How Do Lionfish Affect Coral Reefs?
Lionfish don’t affect coral reefs directly but cause serious harm indirectly. Lionfish feed on important species including “grazers” and “cleaners” that maintain the health of coral reefs and other fish. Grazer species of marine life eat the algae that grows over the reef and include species such as parrotfish, goatfish, wrasses, surgeonfish, and many others. These species are important in keeping algae levels low enough that the coral gets enough oxygen to survive. Likewise, maintaining algae levels also allows the coral to spawn and creates space for baby coral to settle onto substrate where it can establish itself and grow.
Over 42 million people in the Western Atlantic Basin make their living through coral reefs, mainly through fishing and tourism. These same coral reefs also provide protection and shelter to entire schools of marine creatures. Moreover, some say that reefs and the algae that grows on them may provide as much as 80% of the world’s oxygen!
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