more sharks = more coral reefs ?

July 15, 2011

 

The lowering levels of large predators effect reef conservation efforts.

Most of us think of sharks as villainous and frightening creatures but it turns out sharks and other large predators like them play a role in coral reef conservation. The decline of larger predators has disrupted the food chain. It seems the endangerment of these predators is caused mostly by human interference and illegal hunting and fishing practices. This loss creates what is ecologically established as a “trophic cascade.” This stands for a group of effects that trickles down to the lower levels of the food chain. After observing two different reef areas, one with a shark population and one without, scientists found that the reefs in the first habitat with sharks were much healthier than the reefs in the area with no sharks. The second area’s reefs were covered and being suffocated by algae. The absence of larger predator species is not just in ocean habitats either. It is shaking the entire ecosystem. The scale of the top-down issue is proving to be devastating towards conservation efforts as a whole.

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