The researchers found there were “winners” and “losers” among the fish species on the reef, but overall there was a significant decline in the variety of species following bleaching. Their results were published in the journal Global Change Biology.
“Prior to the 2016 mass bleaching event, we observed significant variation in the number of fish species, total fish abundance and functional diversity among different fish communities,” said co-author Dr Andrew Hoey.
“Six months after the bleaching event, however, this variation was almost entirely lost.”
Predictably, the scientists noted that fish with intimate associations with corals suffered severe losses. Butterflyfish, which feed on corals, faced the steepest declines.