Interactions between coral restoration and fish assemblages: implications for reef management

J Fish Biol. 2020 Sep;97(3):633-655. doi: 10.1111/jfb.14440. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Corals create complex reef structures that provide both habitat and food for many fish species. Because of numerous natural and anthropogenic threats, many coral reefs are currently being degraded, endangering the fish assemblages they support. Coral reef restoration, an active ecological management tool, may help reverse some of the current trends in reef degradation through the transplantation of stony corals. Although restoration techniques have been extensively reviewed in relation to coral survival, our understanding of the effects of adding live coral cover and complexity on fishes is in its infancy with a lack of scientifically validated research. This study reviews the limited data on reef restoration and fish assemblages, and complements this with the more extensive understanding of complex interactions between natural reefs and fishes and how this might inform restoration efforts. It also discusses which key fish species or functional groups may promote, facilitate or inhibit restoration efforts and, in turn, how restoration efforts can be optimised to enhance coral fish assemblages. By highlighting critical knowledge gaps in relation to fishes and restoration interactions, the study aims to stimulate research into the role of reef fishes in restoration projects. A greater understanding of the functional roles of reef fishes would also help inform whether restoration projects can return fish assemblages to their natural compositions or whether alternative species compositions develop, and over what timeframe. Although alleviation of local and global reef stressors remains a priority, reef restoration is an important tool; an increased understanding of the interactions between replanted corals and the fishes they support is critical for ensuring its success for people and nature.

Keywords: corallivores; cryptics; damselfishes; herbivores; nutrients; predators; restoration; shade.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology
  • Coral Reefs*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation*
  • Fishes / classification
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Food