There is overwhelming evidence that many local-scale human activities (e.g. fishing) have a deleterious effect on coral reef fish assemblages. Our understanding of how broad social phenomena (e.g. socioeconomic development) affect the diversity and function of coral reef fish assemblages however, is still poor. Here, we use structural equation models to reveal how human population density, socioeconomic development, and market access affect fishing pressure and coral cover to, in turn, explain the diversity and biomass of key functional groups of reef fish assemblages within Solomon Islands. Fishing pressure is predominantly driven by both market access and local population density, and has a clear negative effect on the diversity and function of coral reef fishes. The strong positive effect of market access on fishing pressure makes clear the importance of understanding social-ecological linkages in the context of increasingly connected societies. This study highlights the need to address broad social phenomena rather than focusing on proximate threats such as fishing pressure, to ensure the continued flow of coral reef goods and services in this time of rapid global social and environmental change.
Brewer, T., Cinner, J., Fisher, R., Green, A., & Wilson, S. (2012). Market access, population density, and socioeconomic development explain diversity and functional group biomass of coral reef fish assemblages. Global Environmental Change, 22(2), 399-406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.01.006