Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lionfish giving a roar in the Atlantic


Image above: The lionfish invasion




The lionfish invasion, a case study of environment, interconnection and sustainability


"The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face" said Graham Maddocks, president and founder of Ocean Support Foundation


The story of the lionfish invasion of the Atlantic is a very useful case study for the geography class to explore the concepts of environment, interconnection, space, change and sustainability. After giving a brief overview of the issue this posting will provide information, videos and map visualisations to illustrate this fascinating and geographically useful case study of a little fish from the Pacific which has become a big problem in the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the waters of the Caribbean and beyond. 

The story in a nutshell 

The lionfish, a native of the South Pacific region, has brought enormous change to the biodiversity of the areas it has invaded and is now the the most abundant top-level predator on some coral reefs in the Atlantic.

Lionfish were first recorded in 1985 in the Bahamas and since then their population has grown quickly. They produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days and are sexually mature by 1 year old. Today, you can find them throughout the Amazon, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and in the waters along North Carolina. As a non-indigenous species, lionfish are especially dangerous to the ecosystem because fish in the Atlantic lack a native instinct to stay away from them.

Although some commentators blame the breaking of aquariums during Hurricane Andrew for releasing lionfish to the ocean, it is more likely that they were introduced to the Florida area in 1985 when some pet owners released their lionfish when they got too big for their aquariums (DNA evidence traces all lionfish in the Atlantic back to only six to eight female lionfish). Having no natural predators in the area, scientists say it is up to humans, the fish's only known predator, to save the ecosystem.



Since being released they have altered the coastal ecology and an enormous amount of work is being initiated to limit their impact an spread. 

* Video introductions to the issue





* Map of current distribution: all from 6 lionfish released in 1985   

* World distribution map for lionfish, including projected future spread




There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. With the invasion being a relatively new phenomenon (at least to most people), there’s bound to be some misinformation flying around. The National Geographic website explores the top five misconception about lionfish and the facts behind them. They say, quite correctly; ...'Knowing the truth behind lionfish puts us one step closer to figuring out a solution to the problem!' 


* Attempts to manage the invasion of lionfish

In January 2010 during the general assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Secretariat agreed to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to develop a strategic plan for the control of lionfish in the wider Caribbean. Quite a task to control a species in waters they thrive in and have no predators.



The lionfish invasion is an interesting example of interconnection, environmental management and sustainability. Much research and management efforts is now taking place to avert ongoing ecological disaster. However, the likelihood of success is limited considering the nature of the lionfish and its adaptation and dominance of the Atlantic coastal environment.

2 comments:

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รัตนาวดี ภูมิวรรณ said...

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