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Disentangling Cross-Scale Drivers of Coral Reef Fish Community Structure for Ecosystem-Based Management

Project description

Maintaining healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems

Comprehending interactions within an ecosystem is key to an environmental management approach called ecosystem-based management. The EU-funded FISHSCALE project will tackle this knowledge gap and propose an experiment with a unique blend of trait-based approaches and oceanographic modelling. This will uncover the effect of interacting biophysical environmental drivers and local human influences on reef-fish communities’ structure. The project will employ predictive models to find the natural biophysical processes that best clarify the spatial disparity of reef-fish functional diversity across various scales. In addition, it will investigate how local human populations upset such biophysical relationships and the consequences of disturbances such as fishing. Overall, FISHSCALE will provide insight into ecosystem-based management involving data-poor coral reef fisheries.


Ecosystem-based management is the dominant paradigm for species-rich, but data-poor coral reef fisheries. But its operationalisation is hindered by a lack of information on the natural organisation of coral reefs as determined by distinct biophysical processes operating across scales in space and time, and therefore how that organisation is affected by local human impacts. Understanding how natural and human drivers interact to determine ecological organisation is critical to the local, context specific and spatially explicit application of ecosystem assessments for management, such as prioritizing management areas based on recovery potential and degree of depletion from an unimpacted baseline state. FISHSCALES not only addresses that knowledge gap, but for the first time proposes a unique natural experiment of unprecedented scale with a novel combination of trait-based approaches and high-resolution oceanographic modelling to reveal the relative influence of interacting biophysical environmental drivers and local human impacts on the functional structure of reef-fish communities across scales (from reefs to regional). Using existing multidisciplinary data spanning 45° of latitude and 65° of longitude across 39 central western Pacific islands, this project will use predictive models to identify the natural biophysical mechanisms that best explain the spatial variation of reef-fish functional diversity across scales. It will then model how local human impacts disrupt those biophysical relationships, and explicitly quantify the relative impact of different human disturbances (from fishing to coastal development). Collectively, the results of FISHSCALES will advance our capacity to predict spatial patterns of functional diversity and structure of reef-fish communities, providing insight into relative ecosystem health and stability, and therefore advance the science underpinning ecosystem-based management of data poor coral reef systems.



Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
College road
LL57 2DG Bangor
United Kingdom

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Wales West Wales and The Valleys Gwynedd
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00