(ORDO NEWS) — The team of researchers has been tracking changes in reefs off the Australian coast for more than a decade.
The scientists used the data obtained to understand the reaction of reef fish to changing habitats and ocean temperatures.
The scientists found that fish populations typically change within two years of a dramatic environmental change, but data varies by region. The study is published in the journal Current Biology.
Sea warming and habitat degradation are becoming more common phenomena affecting marine biodiversity.
Australian scientists have been monitoring reef fish populations off the coast of their continent for 12 years.
They compared the data obtained with two other major monitoring of the flora and fauna of the oceans of Australia and made a number of conclusions that help to understand the characteristics of the reef ecosystem.
The research team studied habitat change, such as coral bleaching, and temperature changes. The scientists found that the effects vary depending on the location of the reef, but usually occur within two years.
Fish on temperate and subtropical reefs are highly dependent on temperature change, while tropical reef fish are more affected by habitat change.
For example, after a sea heat wave warmed the waters in southwestern Australia in 2011, tropical fish swam to the reefs of the temperate zone, which have remained there for many years.
The scientists also looked at the effects of coral and algae death on fish. They found that this reduces the number of unique populations.
For example, regions in northeast Australia have shown signs of habitat degradation.
This has led to the fact that universal species dominate among fish, which easily adapt to specific conditions, and specialized species disappear.
Experts hope that this study will contribute to the wider dissemination, standardization and coordination of local studies, which can then be used to assess global trends.
The team is also calling for more research on climate-related reefs.
“Climate change is having a huge impact on marine biodiversity, and the changes we have seen across the Australian continent over a short period of time indicate that ocean warming will progress over the next half century, causing even greater changes in marine life,” authors write.
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