Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

Reef Fish Assemblage Structure Affected by Small-Scale Spacing and Size Variations of Artificial Patch Reefs

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Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology



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Artificial reef, Coral reef, Fishes, Isolation, Patch reef


To examine how varying the distance between patch reefs affects reef fish assemblage structure, replicate concrete reef modules (∼ 1 m3 each) were deployed on sand bottom at 8 m depth off Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA (26°07N, 80°05W). Modules were positioned at the apices of one of four differently sized equilateral triangles. Triangular configurations had side lengths of: 25 m, 15 m, 5 m, and 0.33 m; each treatment with two replicates. Two additional configurations: (1) a solitary module (Single) and (2) two modules side by side (Double), also with two replicates, were deployed in order to examine the interaction of reef size with fish assemblages. SCUBA divers censused fishes monthly, for 2 years, recording the species present, their abundance and sizes (TL). Fishes were assigned to one of five length categories: < 2 cm, > 2–5 cm, > 5–10 cm, > 10–20 cm, and > 20 cm. In general and excluding the smallest three-module spacing treatment (0.33 m treatment), which may have provided unique treatment-specific refuge, total fish abundance and richness were shown to increase when isolation distance increased. However, there were also species-specific and size class differences in response to isolation distance. The second part of this study indicated varying reef size, by doubling and tripling the number of reef modules, increased total fish abundance and species richness. Nevertheless, fish abundance and species richness did not change by an identical multiplier (e.g., doubling modules ≠ double abundance). These results suggest that scientists and marine managers alike should consider reef size and isolation as habitat attributes capable of altering the structure and dynamics of reef fish assemblages.







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©2005 Elsevier Science B. V. All rights reserved.

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Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant #: OFMAS-132; NOAA Coastal Ocean Program award #s: NA96OP0205, NA06OA0390

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