Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean could lose more than a third of their fish species as the impact of climate change takes its toll on the reefs. Scientists studying the fish living on the reefs found many are under threat due to losing their habitat and sources of food as a result of climate change and the impact of humans. They found 56 species of fish, out of a total of 134, are at risk of local extinction due to increased stress placed on the reefs due to climate change. The marine scientists are using a new predictive method to score the fish according to their “extinction risk index” to determine the species’ local and global vulnerability.
Lead author Dr Nick Graham, of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, said: “The loss of particular species can have a critical effect on the stability of an entire ecosystem – and our ability to look after coral reefs depends on being able to predict which species or groups of fish are most at risk. “Until now, the ability to do this has been fairly weak.” According to the scientists, the scoring method can also be used by coral reef managers to help them improve the standards of protection and management in these areas and conserve the reefs for future generations. The scientists tested the method by studying the impact of the disastrous 1998 El Nino climate event, which killed masses of coral in the Indian Ocean, and comparing fish populations before and after its occurrence.