|Continent||Central and Latin America|
|Date||23 May 2014|
Coral reefs provide valuable ecosystem services to the environment and to coastal communities. These services depend on the continuity of ecosystem processes, many of which are currently affected by a myriad of stressors. The Pacific lionfish, is an invasive predatory species to the western Atlantic that has detrimental effects on the ecology of invaded reefs. Invasive lionfish can significantly decrease the recruitment, abundance and diversity of native reef fishes. These major changes in native fish populations have the potential to affect their ecological role and the ecosystem functions they contribute to. Of particular concern are the potential direct effects on economically important species and indirect cascading effects on reef benthic composition, which could potentially affect socioeconomic activities, such as fishing and recreational diving.
My research will take place in areas of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, where artisanal fishing and recreational diving activities occur. By 2009 lionfish was first reported in the Mexican Caribbean, and reports from 2012 suggest that it is now present along the coast in the Southern Gulf of Mexico, but it is not clear whether lionfish are fully established and to what extent. Veracruz hosts one of the largest artisanal fishing fleets in Mexico, which target several species associated with coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems. The Mexican Caribbean is home to a large recreational diving industry, which take tourist divers to visit different reef marine parks. I will combine ecological surveys with socioeconomic interviews to determine the vulnerability of reef-dependent socioeconomic activities to lionfish invasion.
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