Coral reefs provide society with a suite of valuable ecosystems services, including shoreline stabilization, tourism, biodiversity, and food production. Services such as food production are particularly important in many developing countries, where coral reef fisheries represent a critical source of protein for local communities. However, humans may be threatening the ability of reefs to deliver these services though overexploitation, habitat degradation, and global climate change.
Biodiversity loss is a serious consequence of human disturbance, and could compromise fisheries production on reefs. To understand how humans may be altering the relationship between biodiversity and production, I will synthesize existing biological and socioeconomic data for Pacific coral reefs with or without human influence. This data set is unique in that it includes some of the only nearly-pristine coral reefs remaining in the world.
Understanding the natural state of coral reef communities in the absence of human impacts is critical for quantifying human-associated changes and setting these changes in context. I will assess if different types of reef fishes are more vulnerable to human disturbance and whether local extinctions may drive biodiversity loss on impacted reefs. I will determine which of these types of reef fishes are most important in providing high and stable fish production for reef-dependent societies. Finally, I will use type-specific estimates of production and extinction risk to suggest management targets in terms of biodiversity and fish density needed to maximize the provisioning of this key ecosystem service.