HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Richard Spieler

Second Advisor

Sylvain Pioch

Third Advisor

David Gilliam

Fourth Advisor

Kirk Kilfoyle


Coastal infrastructure has replaced many vital fish nursery habitats with structures designed without fully mitigating for the loss of the natural ecosystems. This thesis details research focused on the use of small, inexpensive, artificial reef modules as replacement juvenile fish habitat within marinas. My research hypothesis was that the placement of small, structurally complex artificial reef modules would increase fish abundance and species richness relative to unmodified marina seawalls. Non-destructive visual surveys of fishes were completed monthly for 14 months for 12 artificial reef sites and 12 control (unmodified) sites within the Nova Southeastern University Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center (NSU-GHOC) marina. Divers recorded species, abundance, and size class (0-2 cm, >2-5 cm, >5-10 cm, >10-20 cm, >20-30 cm, >30-50 cm, >50 cm) for all sites. Data was statistically analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and post-hoc Student Newman-Keuls (SNK) tests to explore differences in mean abundance, mean species richness, and mean abundance and species richness by size class and month. Total mean fish abundance and mean species richness (all months and sizes combined) were both significantly higher at artificial reef sites than at control sites. Artificial reef sites were consistently higher in total abundance and species richness when analyzed by month. Analysis of mean abundance by size class found the >2-5 cm, >5-10 cm, >10-20 cm and >20-30 cm classes were significantly higher for artificial reef sites. Species richness analysis by size class found classes >2-5 cm, >5-10 cm, >10-20 cm, and >20-30 cm were significantly higher at artificial reef sites. Fishes from the grunt (Haemulidae) and snapper (Lutjanidae) families contributed the most to the total abundance for both types of sites. These results support my hypothesis and have important implications for mitigating ecological impact to coastal fish nursery areas with the use of artificial structure.


Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Agreement No. 13250

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