Biology Faculty Articles

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title



reef fish, stable isotopes, artificial reef, trophic dynamics



First Page



Artificial reefs may enhance the biological production of reef-associated flora and fauna, but their trophic structure relative to that of natural reefs remains understudied. We assessed trophic relationships by 1) comparing reef fish communities and 2) comparing δ13C and δ15N in 43 fish species from both artificial reef sites and adjacent natural reef tracts in Broward County, Florida. We tested the effect of sampling location (artificial, first, and second reef), general feeding strategy (herbivore, omnivore, invertivore, and carnivore), phylogeny, and standard length on δ13C and δ15N. The reef fish communities of the artificial and natural reef tracts were significantly different; the artificial sites also exhibited more variability. For all samples, δ13C and δ15N ranged from -19.5 to -13.1‰ and 6.7 to 13.3‰, respectively. Significant effects were detected for both general feeding strategy and phylogeny. Significant differences were also seen in δ13C and δ15N profiles between artificial and natural reefs; however, these changes were primarily driven by differences in fish community structure, rather than by changes in the feeding strategy or trophic relationships of individual fish taxa. The trophic guild invertivore was the only group of fish to demonstrate significant isotopic differences between both reef tracts (inner and outer) and reef types (artificial and natural). The artificial reef may act more as a foraging corridor between the natural first and second reef tracts for omnivores and carnivores. If the function of artificial reefs is to provide additional foraging habitat for fishes, then perhaps more time is needed for the trophically important, infaunal invertebrate community to develop similarly to the natural reef environment.


This work was supported by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC-11229).

Additional Comments

© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


0000-0002-4900-3099, 0000-0002-4440-8767, 0000-0003-3464-3541



Peer Reviewed

Included in

Biology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.