The effect of water flow and sedimentation on the cover and species diversity of a sessile benthic community encrusting an artificial reef was investigated. A 43-m long shipwreck, lying in 20 m of water off Key Biscayne, Florida, served as the study site. The predominantly northerly
flow measured during the study period first contacted the shipwreck at the port stern quarter, making an incident angle of approximately 35° with the long axis of the vessel. The bow and stern appeared to be areas of high velocity flow, and amidship region one of decelerated flow. The
cover, species diversity, evenness, and richness of the sessile benthic organisms encrusting the sides of the wreck were significantly higher at the bow and stern as compared to the amidships. The deck exhibited less cover and a lower species diversity than the sides. In general, areas of
high velocity flow and low sedimentation around the wreck corresponded to regions of high cover and species diversity, while areas of decelerated flow and increased sedimentation corresponded to regions of less cover and lower species diversity. Two recommendations are suggested to maximize
the sessile benthic growth on an artificial reef. These are: 1) maximize the amount of surface area exposed to laminar current flow (e.g., in the case of a ship, orient its long axis parallel to the predominant flow direction), and 2) maximize the amount of vertical substrate.
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