Measuring Bahamian lionfish impacts to marine ecological services using habitat equivalency analysis
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Marine ecological services provide goods, amenities, food resources, and economic benefits to millions of people globally. The loss of these services, attributed to the infiltration of marine invasive species such as the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles), is measurable. The highly successful lionfish now flourishes in great densities in the US Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters and the entire Caribbean, yet the loss of ecological services attributed to the invader has not yet been assessed. In this study, we employ a derivative of a well-utilized method of ecosystem valuation known as habitat equivalency analysis to measure the time-value-adjusted loss of biomass- and recruitment-related ecosystem services brought by lionfish to Bahamian reefs. Drawing upon the literature examples of tangible lionfish damages in the Bahamas, we (1) quantitatively evaluate the loss of ecosystem services instigated by lionfish by measuring the total service-year losses partitioned over yearly time steps, (2) provide a metric by which ocean managers may value the remunerations of Bahamian lionfish controls when weighed against removal costs, and (3) deliver a tool to quantify changes in ecosystem services as a consequence of invasive species impacts and control. We found that the invader imposed losses of 26.67 and 21.67 years to recruitment and biomass services per km2 of Bahamian reef if left uncontrolled. In the same accord, the most conservative Bahamian lionfish removal regime modeled, i.e., which produced a 50 % recovery of pre-lionfish ecosystem function over 10 years, provided service gains of 9.57 and 4.78 years per km2. These data deliver a platform upon which to quantify present and future fiscal costs of the lionfish invasion and also to value lionfish control efforts.
We thank the National Coral Reef Institute for their support of this investigation. Funding for this study was provided by the Guy Harvey Research Institute. This is NCRI publication #177.
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