Global human footprint on the linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in reef fishes

Camilo Mora*, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Arturo Ayala-Bocos, Paula M. Ayotte, Stuart Banks, Andrew G. Bauman, Maria Beger, Sandra Bessudo, David J. Booth, Eran Brokovich, Andrew Brooks, Pascale Chabanet, Joshua E. Cinner, Jorge Cortés, Juan J. Cruz-Motta, Amilcar Cupul-Magaña, Edward E. DeMartini, Graham J. Edgar, David A. Feary, Sebastian C. A. FerseAlan M. Friedlander, Kevin J. Gaston, Charlotte Gough, Nicholas A. J. Graham, Alison Green, Hector Guzman, Marah Hardt, Michel Kulbicki, Yves Letourneur, Andres López-Pérez, Michel Loreau, Yossi Loya, Camilo Martinez, Ismael Mascareñas-Osorio, Tau Morove, Marc-Olivier Nadon, Yohei Nakamura, Gustavo Paredes, Nicholas V. C. Polunin, Morgan S. Pratchett, Héctor Reyes Bonilla, Fernando Rivera, Enric Sala, Stuart A. Sandin, German Soler, Rick Stuart-Smith, Emmanuel Tessier, Derek P. Tittensor, Mark Tupper, Paolo Usseglio, Laurent Vigliola, Laurent Wantiez, Ivor Williams, Shaun K. Wilson, Fernando A. Zapata

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Difficulties in scaling up theoretical and experimental results have raised controversy over the consequences of biodiversity loss for the functioning of natural ecosystems. Using a global survey of reef fish assemblages, we show that in contrast to previous theoretical and experimental studies, ecosystem functioning (as measured by standing biomass) scales in a non-saturating manner with biodiversity (as measured by species and functional richness) in this ecosystem. Our field study also shows a significant and negative interaction between human population density and biodiversity on ecosystem functioning (i.e., for the same human density there were larger reductions in standing biomass at more diverse reefs). Human effects were found to be related to fishing, coastal development, and land use stressors, and currently affect over 75% of the world's coral reefs. Our results indicate that the consequences of biodiversity loss in coral reefs have been considerably underestimated based on existing knowledge and that reef fish assemblages, particularly the most diverse, are greatly vulnerable to the expansion and intensity of anthropogenic stressors in coastal areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000606
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2011


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