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Marine protected areas enhance coral reef functioning by promoting fish biodiversity

Zachary M. Topor
Douglas B. Rasher
J. Emmett Duffy and Simon J. Brandl

In this article, the researchers use meta-analysis and path-analytical framework to analyse the impact of ecosystem-based management and area closures on key ecological processes. Through studies in three regions (the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean), it is demonstrated that, on average, marine protected areas enhance herbivory rates on coral reefs and increase the species richness of herbivorous fishes. In turn, these fishes enhance browsing rates on macroalgae, though only a small subset of the herbivore assemblage was responsible for the majority of browsing in the studied regions. Hence, the results indicate that ecosystem functioning on coral reefs may respond positively to both area closures and the protection of key species.