We have a new paper out in Proceedings B, “Fishing, fast growth and climate variability increase the risk of collapse.” Analyzing data from fisheries around the world, we show that patterns in the ocean are nearly the opposite of those on land. Slow-growing species like lions and tigers may be most at risk of extinction on land, but in the ocean, it’s the “rabbits” that are most sensitive. We find that fast-growing species like flounder and sardines are more than three times more likely to collapse when they experience overfishing than their slower-growing cousins. Populations that experience strong climate variability are also more at risk.
Tim Essington also had a nice paper exploring some of these patterns among small pelagic species earlier this year. Definitely worth a read, plus the following discussion (here and here).
It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been in the Philippines for over a week!
Four fifths of the Pinsky Lab is here to conduct a census of clownfish and their host anemones. After two full days of travel by plane, ferry and van, we set to work surveying the coral reefs on the western coast of central Leyte. Surveys are conducted on SCUBA and we work in teams to tag all of the anemones and note the clownfish. Some sites have tons of anemones and others are very sparse with terrible visibility. Each dive is like a 2-3 hour Easter egg hunt and it’s our job to find all of the anemones before we run out of air. Besides a lot of anemones and clownfish, we’ve also seen clownfish eggs, a diverse array of fishes and an uncanny number of sea snakes.
We have hired a boat to take us to our sites, which makes it very convenient for diving. It also means that we spend most of the day on or in the water, including eating our rice and fried chicken lunches off of dive slates and fins! In addition, commuting by boat allows us to admire the spectacular deep valleys and sheer green cliffs of Leyte that are dotted with long ribbon-like waterfalls. Often times, we arrive back to our hostel just as the sun is setting. With a coconut palm lined coastline, it is incredibly picturesque and a beautiful way to round off a long day of diving.
Field season #2 on our NSF RAPID grant to study coral reef ecosystem recovery from Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte, Philippines. We’re continuing benthic cover, fish visual surveys, and invertebrate surveys, but our main focus is on clownfish metapopulation dynamics and identifying the origin of recolonizing individuals (using genetic tags as natural “license plates” to identify source locations). Here’s a photo from our first full day of diving, walking down the road on the campus of the Visayas State University with our dive gear in the amazing “pot pot”. From left to right: Gerry Sucano (field assistant extraordinaire), Michelle Stuart, Patrick Flanagan, and Jennifer Hoey.
The news about the Coastal SEES awards is now official: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132637. We’re excited to get started on the collaboration with Kevin St. Martin, Eli Fenichel, Simon Levin, and Bonnie McCay! We’ll be focused on adaptation of fish and fisheries to rapid climate velocities.
Pinsky Lab Phillipines is closing down after a great summer season! We (Michelle and field assistant Gerry Sucano) collected 540 clownfish samples and performed fish and coral transects on 600 m of reef off the western coast of Leyte. While damage from Typhoon Yolanda (known as Typhoon Hayan in the U.S.) is still evident both on land and on the reef, there are still breathtaking stretches of coral habitat that are home to a diverse array of fish and invertebrates. We’ll be coming back here often over the coming years to observe the coral reef recovery, and in particular to understand how the dispersal of baby clownfish contributes to the recovery of their populations.
Sampling clownfish has its humorous moments, and it was especially fun to watch clownfish hide from our field assistant and clownfish wrangler extraordinaire, Gerry. They would hide behind rocks and peek out at him from around corners. They would zip off to a neighboring anemone, and three or four would get together and watch him, swimming to face each other and then him in what seemed to be an animated conversation about the giant “fish” with bubbles coming out of its mouth.
The area of the Philippines where we work is a fascinating amalgamation of “primitive” with modern technology. People live in thatch roofed huts and yet watch episodes of Game of Thrones on tablets. They use modern industrial materials to manufacture “off the grid” solutions, and the natural world is never far away. Even in our air conditioned hotel rooms, part of the wall was made of screen to allow air to move in and out (irony, anyone?). Being in a completely closed space started to feel odd, though the New Jersey winter will surely dispel that notion in due time. Meanwhile, it has been wonderful to enjoy living in this tiny piece of paradise.