Fouling reefal communities on artificial reefs: Does age matter? Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Man-made submerged structures, including shipwrecks, offering substrata for fouling organisms and fish, have been classified secondarily as artificial reefs (ARs). The current approach in AR design is that of low-profile structures placed on the seabed and attempting to mimic natural reef (NR) communities with the aim of mitigating degraded marine ecosystems. To examine the validity of this concept, a long-term comparison of the developing AR fouling communities to those of nearby NRs is required. A survey of the fouling reefal organisms was conducted on seven shipwrecks (Red Sea, Egypt), comprising three young (ca 20 years old) and four old (>100 years old) unplanned ARs, in comparison to nearby NR communities. The hypothesis tested was that the age of the ARs shapes the structure of their fouling coral communities. The results demonstrated distinct differences between ARs and NRs and between young and old ARs. While the species composition on ARs may resemble that of NRs after approximately 20 years, obtaining a similar extent of coral cover may require a full century. Moreover, differences in structural features between ARs and NRs may lead to differences in species composition that persist even after 100 years.

publication date

  • January 1, 2005