Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles


Camilo Mora, Dalhousie University
Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Arturo Ayala Bocos, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California
Paula M. Ayotte, University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Stuart Banks, Charles Darwin Foundation
Andrew G. Bauman, United Nations University; James Cook UniversityFollow
Maria Beger, University of Queensland
Sandra Bessudo, Fundación Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas Marinos
David J. Booth, Univerity of Technology - Sydney, Australia
Eran Brokovich, Tel-Aviv University
Andrew Brooks, University of California, Santa Barbara
Pascale Chabanet, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Josh Eli Cinner, James Cook University
Jorge Cortes, University of Costa Rica
Juan J. Cruz-Motta, Universidad Simon Bolivar
Amilcar Cupul Magaña, Universidad de Guadalajara
Edward E. DeMartini, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; University of Hawaii
Graham J. Edgar, University of Tasmania
David A. Feary, University of Technology, Sydney
Sebastian C. A. Ferse, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology
Alan M. Friedlander, University of Hawaii
Kevin J. Gaston, University of Sheffield
Charlotte Gough, Blue Ventures
Nicholas A. J. Graham, James Cook University
Alison Green, The Nature Conservancy
Hector M. Guzman, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Marah Hardt, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Michel Kulbicki, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, c/o Université de Perpignan
Yves Letourneur, Université de La Réunion
Andres López Pérez, Universidad del Mar - Mexico
Michel Loreau, McGill University
Yossi Loya, Tel-Aviv University
Camilo Martinez, Secretaría Nacional de Planificación y Desarrollo
Ismael Mascareñas-Osorio, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur
Tau Morove, Wildlife Conservation Society
Marc-Olivier Nadon, University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Yohei Nakamura, Kochi University
Gustavo Paredes, Centro para la Biodiversidad Marina y Conservación del Golfo de California
Nicholas V.C. Polunin, University of Newcastle - United Kingdom
Morgan S. Pratchett, James Cook University
Hector Reyes Bonilla, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur
Fernando Rivera, Instituto Nazca de Investigaciones Marinas
Enric Sala, National Geographic Society
Stuart A. Sandin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
German Soler, Fundacion Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas Marinos - Bogota, Columbia
Rick Stuart-Smith, University of Tasmania
Emmanuel Tessier, Réserve Naturelle Marine de La Réunion
Derek P. Tittensor, Dalhousie University - Canada
Mark Tupper, The WorldFish Center
Paolo Usseglio, United Nations University; University of Hawaii
Laurent Vigliola, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Laurent Wantiez, University of New Caledonia
Ivor D. Williams, University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Shaun K. Wilson, Marine Science Program, Department of Environment and Conservation, Kensington
Fernando A. Zapata, University Valle



Document Type


Publication Title

PLoS Biology



Publication Date



Coral reefs, Biomass, Biodiversity, Ecosystem functioning, Population density, Species diversity, Species extinction, Theoretical ecology


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.







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The main funding was provided by the Sloan Foundation through the Census of Marine Life's Future of Marine Animal Populations and Natural Geography in Shore Areas projects. Additional funding and support were provided by the Royal Society; the Leverhulme Trust; Nakheel PJSC; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Galapagos National Park Service; Charles Darwin Foundation; Conservation International; Walton Family Foundation; the Australian Research Council; National Geographic; the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association; the German National Academic Foundation; the Coral Reef Conservation Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; The National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Habitat Conservation; the 21st Century Centers of Excellence Program of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; the French Institute for Biodiversity; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the Wildlife Conservation Society; the United States National Science Foundation's Long-term Ecological Research Program; The Conservation Leadership Programme; Australian Institute of Marine Sciences; the Australian Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts; The Marisla Foundation Environment Program; the World Wildlife Fund; The Ocean Conservancy; and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Additional Comments

We thank the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, Unisys Atlantic Tropical Storm Tracking, SeaWIFS Project, the Millennium Coral Reef Mapping Project, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, and the United Nations World Human Population Division for making their data available.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Peer Reviewed