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Webinar: Ecological impacts of climate-related ichthyofaunal shifts and invasive lionfish on Gulf of Mexico reef fishes

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Thursday, 26 January 2017, 12:00

Thursday, January 26, 2017. 12:00 PM. Webinar: Ecological impacts of climate-related ichthyofaunal shifts and invasive lionfish on Gulf of Mexico reef fishes. Tony Marshak, NOAA Fisheries. Sponsored by NOAA Fisheries. More information here.

Large and apparently unprecedented increases in the abundance of juvenile gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), lane snapper (L. synagris), groupers and other tropically-associated species within northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM) seagrass meadows have been recently observed.  Although occurring infrequently in the nGOM, their increased abundance has been suggested to reflect regional warming trends, and has resulted in higher numbers in offshore adult habitats.  Additionally, recent invasion by the Indo-Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans) into nGOM offshore habitats has been documented.  Increases in tropically-associated confamilials, and invasive lionfish, could result in pronounced competitive interactions with nGOM reef fishes, such as juvenile red snapper (L. campechanus), in limited natural reef habitat, and cause shifts in the species composition of offshore fish assemblages.  We experimentally investigated the intensity of these interactions between increasingly abundant tropical snapper species, red lionfish, and indigenous members of the nGOM reef fish community in large outdoor mesocosms.  Compared to tropical counterparts, red snapper demonstrated increased partial roving behavior, aggression, and predation, suggesting their potential to exploitatively outcompete lower latitude snappers.  However, lionfish were more active than red snapper, and consumed more prey than range-shifting reef fishes, suggesting additional partial advantage over nGOM fishes.  As conditions continue to favor ongoing warming-related species shifts and marine invasions within marine ecosystems, these findings contribute toward the assessment of their impacts toward the valuable nGOM reef fish community.

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