Modeling reef fish biomass, recovery potential, and management priorities in the Western Indian Ocean

Fish biomass is a primary driver of coral reef ecosystem services and has high sensitivity to human disturbances, particularly fishing. Estimates of fish biomass, their spatial distribution, and recovery potential are important for evaluating reef status and crucial for setting management targets. Here we modeled fish biomass estimates across all reefs of the western Indian Ocean using key variables that predicted the empirical data collected from 337 sites. These variables were used to create biomass and recovery time maps to prioritize spatially explicit conservation actions. The resultant fish biomass map showed high variability ranging from ~15 to 2900 kg/ha, primarily driven by human populations, distance to markets, and fisheries management restrictions.

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