Ecological Engineering

The effects of wave exposure and host cover on coral-associated fauna of a centuries-old artificial reef in the Caribbean

A B S T R A C T

An increasing number of artificial reefs (ARs) are constructed to compensate for the loss of natural reefs (NRs),
but little is known about their benthic community composition. Here, we compared the densities of coral-
associated fauna (CAF) between a centuries-old manmade structure and the nearest NR at St. Eustatius,
eastern Caribbean. Overall, no significant difference in the density of CAF (coral-dwelling barnacles, crabs,
worms) was found between the NR and the AR, nor between the exposed and sheltered sides of each. Signifi-
cantly different densities of CAF related to host cover were observed among corals on both the AR and the NR.
Per host species, the AR did not show such differences in density between exposed and sheltered sides, although
these differences were observed on the NR. Thus, turbulence and host cover regulate the density of CAF, while
differences also depend on host species composition. Furthermore, from an ecological engineering perspective,
the present AR resembles the NR in overall design, but not in relief rugosity and surface structure, which are also
considered important contributors to the difference in species assemblages of the host corals and their CAF, even
after many decades of community development

Date
2022
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius

Fish assemblages of three common artificial reef designs during early colonization

Highlights

  • Fish abundance and biomass differed per artificial reef type.
  • This difference is driven by the availability of small shelters.
  • Artificial reef deployment can be more efficient by choosing better performing or cheaper designs.

In this study, we compared the early fish colonization of three types of artificial reefs deployed in the coastal waters of Saba and St Eustatius in the Caribbean: reef balls®, layered cakes and piles of locally obtained basaltic rock. As an indicator of performance, three fish assemblage parameters (abundance, biomass, species richness) were measured using underwater visual censuses at 11 months post-deployment and 4 months after restoration from hurricane damage. All artificial reef plots showed higher values for fish abundance, biomass and species richness than control plots covered by bare sand, which shows that artificial reefs can locally enhance the fish assemblage. However, the effect differed among artificial reef plots. Fish abundance was 3.8 times higher on the layered cake plots compared to the reef ball plots, while fish biomass was 4.6 times higher. Rock pile plots had intermediate values. Species richness did not differ significantly among different artificial reef plots. Three-dimensional modelling revealed that layered cakes had a smaller gross volume, shelter volume and total surface area than reef balls. The availability of multiple small shelters in the layered cake design appeared to be more relevant than other physical parameters, as the layered cake plots had higher fish abundance than the reef balls plots. We concluded that on Saba and St. Eustatius, layered cake plots performed better than reef ball plots after one year of colonization. Rock pile plots, made of local volcanic rock, showed an intermediate performance, and were 4–10 times cheaper to construct. If observed differences are consistent with other locations and persist during further colonization, current efforts to deploy reef balls could better be allocated to deploy artificial reef structures with a higher shelter density. 

Reef ball® , Layered cake, Fish abundance, Shelter availability, Habitat restoration, Artificial reef

 

Date
2020
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba
St. Eustatius