, Volume 96, Issue 10-11, pp 1151-1157
Date: 15 Apr 2011

Worst case scenario: potential long-term effects of invasive predatory lionfish (Pterois volitans) on Atlantic and Caribbean coral-reef communities

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Abstract

The Pacific red lionfish has recently invaded Western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs, and may become one of the most ecologically harmful marine fish introductions to date. Lionfish possess a broad suite of traits that makes them particularly successful invaders and strong negative interactors with native fauna, including defensive venomous spines, cryptic form, color and behavior, habitat generality, high competitive ability, low parasite load, efficient predation, rapid growth, and high reproductive rates. With an eye on the future, we describe a possible “worst case scenario” in which the direct and indirect effects of lionfish could combine with the impacts of preexisting stressors—especially overfishing—and cause substantial deleterious changes in coral-reef communities. We also discuss management actions that could be taken to minimize these potential effects by, first, developing targeted lionfish fisheries and local removals, and second, enhancing native biotic resistance, particularly via marine reserves that could conserve and foster potential natural enemies of this invader. Ultimately, the lionfish invasion will be limited either by the lionfish starving—the worst end to the worst case scenario—or by some combination of native pathogens, parasites, predators, and competitors controlling the abundance of lionfish.