Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Four years ago I wrote a post called “The Parrotfish Should Be The National Bird“, about the critical place that the parrotfish plays in the life of both the reef and the coral atolls that depend on the reef. It was based mostly on my years of scuba and snorkel diving on the coral reefs of the South Pacific and watching the reef denizens including the parrotfish go about their daily lives.
As a result, I was glad to see a press release from last week entitled Study finds parrotfish are critical to coral reef health. In it, they analyzed sediment cores that were dated back almost to 1000 BC. Their results showed that the parrotfish, which graze on the algae that would otherwise overgrow the reef, are a critical part of the reef ecosystem. I did have to laugh about this paragraph, though …
“These findings reveal that parrotfish indeed have a positive and critical role in coral health, a hotly debated issue in coral reef research that cannot be resolved with studies of modern reefs which have already been greatly altered by human activities,” said Cramer. “Using the fossil record to analyze the natural state of reefs before human disturbance, we have conclusively shown that if we want to protect corals we have to protect the parrotfish from overfishing.”
The importance of parrotfish might be “a hotly debated issue” in research circles … divers, on the other hand, hang out underwater and watch the circus.
The only part that they didn’t mention in their analysis was that when the parrotfish graze the algae off the reef, they also bite off part of the coral. These chunks of coral are ground up by special plates in their throats, and excreted as a lovely white sand … the lovely white sand that you see in the pictures of tropical beaches.
So if you go to a tropical island, walk by the ocean, enjoy the white sand beaches, and please don’t eat the parrotfish …
Best to everyone,
As Is My Custom—I ask that in your comment you QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE REFERRING TO, so that we can all be clear about your subject.
Previous Posts on Atolls and Parrotfish—
Floating Islands 2010-01-27
Much has been written of late regarding the impending projected demise of the world’s coral atoll islands due to CO2-caused sea level rise. Micronesia is suing the Czech Government over CO2 emissions that they claim are damaging their coral atolls via sea level rise. Tuvalu and the Maldives are also repeating…
The Irony, It Burns … 2010-06-03
Anthony commented yesterday on the question of atolls and sea level rise here, and I had previously written on the subject in my post “Floating Islands“. However, Anthony referenced a paper which was incorrectly linked by New Scientist. So I thought I’d provide some more information on the actual study, entitled “The dynamic response of reef…