Deciphering Preferences for Shelter Volume and Distribution by Coral Reef Fish, Using Systematic and Functional Grouping

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Global degradation of coral reefs is reflected in the destruction of shelters in various environments and threatens the stability of marine ecosystems. Artificial shelters offer an alternative, but their design could be more challenging due to limited knowledge regarding desired inhabitants’ shelter characteristics and preferences. Investigating these preferences is resource-intensive, particularly regarding small shelters that mimic natural reef conditions. Furthermore, for statistical analysis in small shelters, fish abundance may need to be higher. We propose a method to characterize the species-specific shelter preferences using low-volume data. During a study conducted from January 2021 to April 2022, round clay artificial shelters (RAS) were deployed on an abandoned oil pier to examine a coral reef fish community. We recorded 92 species from 30 families and grouped them into systematic (families) and functional (dietary group) classes. Grouping enabled us to examine each group’s preference, while crossing these group preferences revealed species-specific preferences, which matched field observations. This approach proved effective in profiling the shelter preferences of 17 species while having limited resources. These profiles may later allow the establishment of ecological-oriented artificial reefs. Moreover, this method can be applied to other applications using other shelter designs, sizes, and research sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number186
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • artificial reefs
  • Red Sea
  • restoration
  • shelter characteristic
  • shelter design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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