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Field experiments provide rigorous tests of ecological hypotheses but are usually limited to small spatial scales. It is thus unclear whether these findings extrapolate to larger scales relevant to conservation and management. We show that the results of experiments detecting density-dependent mortality of reef fish on small habitat patches scale up to have similar effects on much larger entire reefs that are the size of small marine reserves and approach the scale at which some reef fisheries operate. We suggest that accurate scaling is due to the type of species interaction causing local density dependence and the fact that localized events can be aggregated to describe larger-scale interactions with minimal distortion. Careful extrapolation from small-scale experiments identifying species interactions and their effects should improve our ability to predict the outcomes of alternative management strategies for coral reef fishes and their habitats.