Microplastic exposure interacts with habitat degradation to affect behaviour and survival of juvenile fish in the field

McCormick, Mark I., Chivers, Douglas P., Ferrari, Maud C.O., Blandford, Makeely I., Nanninga, Gerrit P., Richardson, Celia, Fakan, Eric P., Vamvounis, George, Gulizia, Alexandra M., and Allan, Bridie J.M. (2020) Microplastic exposure interacts with habitat degradation to affect behaviour and survival of juvenile fish in the field. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 287 (1937). 20201947.

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Coral reefs are degrading globally due to increased environmental stressors including warming and elevated levels of pollutants. These stressors affect not only habitat-forming organisms, such as corals, but they may also directly affect the organisms that inhabit these ecosystems. Here, we explore how the dual threat of habitat degradation and microplastic exposure may affect the behaviour and survival of coral reef fish in the field. Fish were caught prior to settlement and pulse-fed polystyrene microplastics six times over 4 days, then placed in the field on live or dead-degraded coral patches. Exposure to microplastics or dead coral led fish to be bolder, more active and stray further from shelter compared to control fish. Effect sizes indicated that plastic exposure had a greater effect on behaviour than degraded habitat, and we found no evidence of synergistic effects. This pattern was also displayed in their survival in the field. Our results highlight that attaining low concentrations of microplastic in the environment will be a useful management strategy, since minimizing microplastic intake by fishes may work concurrently with reef restoration strategies to enhance the resilience of coral reef populations.

Item ID: 65439
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: habitat degradation, microplastics, coral reeffish, predator–prey, pollution, climate change
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Rossi Foundation (RF), Lizard Island Research Station, European Union (EU)
Projects and Grants: ARC EI140100117, ARC P170103372, RF plastic pollution grant, EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 700838
Research Data: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12072021, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.25903/5cff2e614a5d5
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2021 22:22
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9611 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water > 961104 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Marine Environments @ 100%
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