Reduced human activity in shallow reefs during the COVID-19 pandemic increases fish evenness

Victor China*, Assaf Zvuloni, Uri Roll, Jonathan Belmaker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic provides a rare opportunity to examine effects of people on natural systems and processes. Here, we collected fish diversity data from coral reefs at the Israeli Gulf of Aqaba during and after the COVID-19 lockdown. We examined beach entrances to the reef, nearby shallow reefs and deeper areas exposed mostly to divers. We found that the lockdown elicited a behavioral response that resulted in elevated species richness at designated reef entrances, predominantly influenced by increased evenness without changes to total abundances. This effect was observed both at the local scale and when several beach entrances were aggregated together. Consequently, non-extractive human activities may have substantial short-term impacts on fish diversity. Our insights could help designate guidelines to manage visitor impacts on coral reefs and aid in their prolonged persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109103
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume257
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Funding

FundersFunder number
Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences
Jacob Blaustein Center for Scientific Cooperation

    Keywords

    • Anthropocene
    • Coral reefs
    • Divers
    • Fishes
    • Human disturbance
    • Human-nature interactions

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