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Fish poop a key source of nutrients in marine ecosystems

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In addition to being predators, fish contribute significant amounts of nutrients to marine ecosystems. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Detailed reef study shows why it’s important to maintain healthy fish communities

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Although fish are often thought of as predators that graze on microorganisms, plants and smaller animals, it turns out they play another crucial role in the marine ecosystem. Through excretion, they recycle the nutrients they take in, providing the fertilizer sea grass and algae need to grow.

The role of fish poop as a fertilizer for marine ecosystems had previously been overlooked, according to Jacob Allgeier, a doctoral student in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology, and Craig Layman, associate professor at Florida International University, who led the study in the waters of a large bay on Abaco Island, Bahamas.

The research showed that fish contribute more nutrients to their local ecosystems than any other source — enough to cause changes in the growth rates of the organisms at the base of the food web. Continue reading

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