Background/Question/Methods Understanding how local-scale interactions manifest as emergent ecosystem-scale processes is a fundamental challenge in ecology and vital for the conservation and management of resources. Tropical coastal ecosystems are among the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, providing essential ecological services for millions of people worldwide, including fisheries. Yet these ecosystems are also among the most degraded globally, with overexploitation causing extreme reductions in consumer populations. Consumers, in particular fishes, can mediate nutrient and energy dynamics via bottom-up pathways whereby they supply limiting nutrients via waste products that can enhance primary production at local-scales. A current focus of my research is to quantify to what extent these local-scale effects drive ecosystem-level processes, with the goal of understanding the consequences of consumer exploitation and to identify potential mechanisms that can be applied to rebuild fisheries. Results/Conclusions Using a suite of observational and experimental approaches to understand consumer-producer interactions, I have identified two mechanisms that may underpin ecosystem-scale production in tropical ecosystems: differential nutrient allocation and compensatory growth in primary producers associated with surplus nutrient availability, and fish behavior. Combining empirical datasets to generate data-rich models provides support that these mechanisms drive emergent patterns of ecosystem production. These findings have important implication for fisheries restoration and the conservation of coastal tropical ecosystems.