Stability of coral reef fish assemblages impacted by nuclear tests
Titre de la revue : Ecology
Volume : 86
N° : 10
Pagination : 2578-2585
Date de publication : 01/10/2005
Investigating the resilience of fish assemblages requires large-scale experiments, but large-scale manipulations are rarely possible, and natural experiments frequently must take their place. Here we report a unique opportunity to explore the resilience of reef fish assemblages. The underground nuclear testing program conducted by the French Armed Forces at Mururoa Atoll, while not intended as an ecological experiment, caused multiple instantaneous removals of fish over areas of approximately 12.5 km, without otherwise affecting their environment or the opportunity for recolonization. We show that fish assemblages responded rapidly to these intense, large-scale perturbations, restoring assemblage structure within 1-5 yr. Reef fishery conservation efforts must emphasize protection of habitat, because reef fish assemblages are resilient even to intensive, localized harvesting so long as the structural and biotic integrity of their habitat is maintained and neighboring sites are able to supply recruits.