Fishing can affect not just the numbers of predators and the behaviour of their prey, but also the distribution of plants at the bottom of the food chain.
Elizabeth Madin, currently at the University of Technology–Sydney in Australia, and her colleagues developed a model assuming that a reduction in predators from fishing makes prey species bolder. They are then inclined to forage farther afield.
The authors used the model to accurately predict the spatial distribution of seaweed, which is eaten by the prey fish, on the coral reefs of the northern Line Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Those of Palmyra Atoll, which has seen almost no fishing, had more and larger seaweed patches — indicating less adventurous foraging — than did the intensely fished reefs of Kiritimati Atoll.