Sci Rep. 2023 Dec 9;13(1):21806. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-49221-y.
In March 2020, the world went into lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), with immediate impacts on wildlife across ecosystems. The strict 2-year long lockdown in Grand Cayman provided an unprecedented opportunity to assess how the ‘human confinement experiment’ influenced the community composition of reef fish. Using a suite of multivariate statistics, our findings revealed a stark increase in reef fish biomass during the 2 years of lockdown, especially among herbivores, including parrotfish, with drastic increases in juvenile parrotfishes identified. Additionally, when comparing baseline data of the community from 2018 to the 2 years during lockdown, over a three-fold significant increase in mean reef fish biomass was observed, with a clear shift in community composition. Our findings provide unique insights into the resilience of reef fish communities when local anthropogenic stressors are removed for an unprecedented length of time. Given the functional role of herbivores including parrotfish, our results suggest that reductions in human water-based activities have positive implications for coral reef ecosystems and should be considered in future management strategies.