A new study, published on May 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that biodiversity could help fish thrive against climate change. The researchers explain that fish communities with more fish species are more productive and resistant to increasing ocean temperatures and other temperature variations brought by climate change.

When ocean temperature increases to 20 degrees Celsius, the biomass of small fish communities starts to reduce. However, the communities with many fish species maintained their biomass production at the same temperature.

The report is from a survey of 3,000 fish species in 44 nations around the globe called the Reef Life Survey. In collaboration with volunteer citizen scientists, a third of who do not have a scientific background as well as the volunteer divers, the researchers looked into the impact of environmental factors on overall fish biomass on coral and rocky reefs.


These are reef fishes in the global center of fish diversity, Raja Ampat, West Papua.. Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith

The researchers believe that those communities with more fish species are more capable of managing temperature changes because these communities have more of their bases covered. The large fish communities will thrive more easily in the new environment.

According to the study’s co-author Jonathan Lefcheck of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the findings echo previous studies conducted on plants and other small animals in greenhouses or gardens that revealed biodiversity help these creatures survive. Conserving biodiversity will not only help these animals, it can have benefits to humans as well.

“This work is a critical step forward in linking insights from experiments in buckets and garden plots to the larger world,” adds Lefcheck. “It shows that experimental ecologists have in fact been on the right track for 20 years and that biodiversity is paramount to how natural systems work.”

“Biodiversity is more than a pretty face,” states study’s lead author Emmett Duffy, the director of the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network and a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre. “Preserving biodiversity is not just an aesthetic or spiritual issue–it’s critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the important services they provide to humans, like seafood.”