We are excited to share a new scientific paper that was published in the journal Global Change Biology last month. Researchers used REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project database to answer crucial questions about the impacts of invasive lionfish as their range expands into new areas, such as Brazil. It is well known that predation by lionfish affects native fish populations, and this impact is likely exacerbated in certain vulnerable species. Based on REEF's citizen science data, the researchers identified 77 Caribbean species and 29 Brazilian species with high vulnerability to lionfish predation. These species are predominately small and narrow-bodied reef fishes, and/or those with restricted ranges. They also estimated the rate of relative lionfish abundance, from initial sighting to peak local density, and found that it takes approximately two years for lionfish to achieve peak density. These findings show that lionfish control measures implemented at the invasion front, ahead of the approximately two-year lag to peak lionfish density, may avert severe species decline. This finding is critical for places like Brazil, where 12 range-restricted reef fishes occur only in oceanic islands. In addition to Brazil, spatial richness analyses of the REEF dataset revealed other hotspots of vulnerable species in The Bahamas, Belize and Curaçao.
Click here to watch a time-lapse of the range expansion of invasive lionfish in the Western Atlantic from their first sightings in 2001 to 2017, based on the REEF database. See more about this paper and all scientific papers that have included REEF data and programs at www.REEF.org/db/publications.
The full citation of this paper is: Linardich, C, CB Brookson, S Green. 2021. Trait‐based vulnerability reveals hotspots of potential impact for a global marine invader. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.15732