El Niño Killing Young Coral Reef Fish, Biologists Find
December 10, 2010
The unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures ushered in by El Niño can have a profound impact on the fish populations surrounding South Pacific coral reefs, a new study finds.
An international team of biologists studied the arrival of young fish to the coral atoll of Rangiroa in French Polynesia for four years and compared their results with satellite and oceanographic data. They found that the El Niño event caused a sudden collapse in the plankton community and this led to a near absence of the young fish required to replenish adult stocks.
Young coral reef fish aren't raised the way human children are: Rather than caring for their young, the adult fish disperse them into the open waters off the reef where they drift with the currents while they grow and develop into small juveniles, at which point they make their way back to the reef.
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