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Small fish need a protected environment so they can grow large enough to survive in the competitive reef environment.

Little Fish

Coral reefs are very competitive ecosystems. Young reef fish that grow a little larger and/or a little faster in a safe nursery area increase their chances of surviving on the reef. Removing nursery areas result in fewer adult fish on the reef.

 Reef fish nurseries

Young reef fish often use ecosystems like seagrass beds or mangroves as nursery areas. Some nurseries contain the juveniles of most fish species found on the nearby reefs. Starting out in these sheltered areas gives these fish a greater chance of survival when they move onto the reef.

Removing these nursery areas result in less fish on the reef because fewer survive the earliest stage of their life. Preserving seagrass beds and mangroves helps maintain fish numbers and health of the coral reef ecosystem.

 Baby fish and sustainability

Damaging an ecosystem lowers diversity and productivity. Removing mangroves or seagrass lowers productivity those ecosystems, but also lowers the productivity of nearby coral reefs. These ecosystems are interconnected and reliant are on one another. Altering one ecosystem may have unintended consequences on another.


Mumby, J. (2006). Connectivity of reef fish between mangroves and coral reefs: Algorithms for the design of marine reserves at seascape scales. Biological Conservation 128: 215-222. PDF retrieved 31 July 2008 from http://www.livingoceansfoundation.org/docs/Reef_Fish_Connectivity.pdf

Nagelkerken, I. et al. (2000, July). Importance of mangroves, seagrass beds and the shallow coral reef as a nursery for important coral reef fishes, using a visual census technique. Estuarine, coastal and shelf science 51(1): 31-44. Retrieved 31 July 2008 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WDV-45F54Y7-21&_user=145269&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000012078&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=145269&md5=cabc02f8077e24d72dfe9b0f627f817c

Mumby, P. et al. (2004, February 5). Mangroves enhance the biomass of coral reef fish communities in the Caribbean. Nature 427: 533-536. Retrieved 31 July 2008 from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v427/n6974/full/nature02286.html

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