Can artificial reefs mimic natural reef communities? The roles of structural features and age

S. Perkol-Finkel, N. Shashar, Y. Benayahu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations

Abstract

In light of the deteriorating state of coral reefs worldwide, the need to rehabilitate marine environments has greatly increased. Artificial reefs (ARs) have been suggested as a tool for reef conservation and rehabilitation. Although successions of AR communities have been thoroughly studied, current understanding of the interactions between artificial and natural reefs (NRs) is poor and a fundamental question still to be answered is that of whether AR communities can mimic adjacent NR communities. We suggest three alternative hypotheses: Neighboring ARs and NRs will (1) achieve a similar community structure given sufficient time; (2) be similar only if they possess similar structural features; (3) always differ, regardless of age or structural features. We examined these hypotheses by comparing the community structure on a 119-year old shipwreck to a neighboring NR. Fouling organisms, including stony and soft corals, sponges, tunicates, sea anemones and hydrozoans were recorded and measured along belt transects. The ahermatypic stony coral Tubastrea micrantha dominated vertical AR regions while the soft corals Nephthea sp. and Xenia sp. dominated both artificial and natural horizontal surfaces. Our results support the second hypothesis, indicating that even after a century an AR will mimic its adjacent NR communities only if it possesses structural features similar to those of the natural surroundings. However, if the two differ structurally, their communities will remain distinct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-135
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Volume61
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Community development
  • Coral reef
  • Red Sea
  • Shipwreck
  • Spatial orientation
  • Structural complexity

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