How herbivores help the reef
A herbivore is a animal that feeds only on plants. They are not predatory nor do they hunt other animals, but instead survive of nutrients provided by plants only. And they are helping the reef big time.
All animals on the reef serve a purpose; each and everyone of them is involved in the balancing act that it takes to maintain a healthy ecosystem. However, one such part of that ecosystem may be overlooked and that is the herbivore.
Species such as parrotfish, rabbitfish, surgeonfish, damselfish, and unicornfish all play a vital role in coral health, which are all plant eaters. The herbivore species remove algae and seaweed from the reef’s ecosystem, which if left to their own devices, can affect the overall health of a reef, strangling it. While both are important to the reef overall (namely in coral health), the vegetarian fish stop the algae from growing in excess, which can stunt the growth of new coral. As they eat, they also clean, which will help maintain the balancing act of the Great Barrier Reef.
The algae and seaweed eating species act as composters or lawnmowers, keeping everything neat and tidy and allowing the life of the reef to move forward. In fact, if you’re snorkelling or scuba diving and you listen carefully, you can hear the munching and crunching of the herbivores as they eat and clean the reef.