The colonization of an experimental reef composed of blocks of stabilized coal-fired power station waste (pulverized fuel ash (PFA) and gypsum), which was installed in Poole Bay in June 1989 is described. The reef consists of 50 tons of blocks (each 40 × 20 × 20 cm) formed
into eight conical units, each 1 m high by 4 m across on an area of seabed 30 m × 10 m. The reef lies on a flat sandy seabed (10 m below chart datum) 3 km distant from natural rocky outcrops. The eight units represent three different PFA/gypsum mixes, each replicated, and two concrete
controls. Colonization by epibiota was monitored using direct observation and photographic recording of block surfaces. Analysis of the results using CLUSTAN 3/PC clustering software did not reveal any differences in the biota colonizing the three PFA/gypsum mixes or between the colonizers
of the PFA/gypsum mixes and the concrete controls. Epibiota showed seasonal variations in abundance throughout the year overlain with a progression in the numbers of species present and a maturation of the population towards the epibiotic populations seen on local natural reefs. Adult lobsters
(Homarus gammarus) and crabs (Cancer pagurus) from the local natural reefs were recruited to the reef within 3 weeks. Acoustic and conventional tagging studies revealed that some lobsters showed considerable site loyalty, with recorded residence time of 368 days. The most numerous
shoaling fish congregating around the reef units has been the pouting, Trisopterus luscus, a small gadoid. Shoal size was commonly estimated at around 200 individuals per reef unit. Summer biomass estimates of pouting wet weight, using published weight to length conversions, were 207–1572
kg·ha−1 in the vicinity of anyone of the eight reef units. Several species using the reef were observed to be reproducing there. These include corkwing wrasse (Crenilabrus melops), lobster (Homarus gammarus), spiny spider crabs (Maja squinado),
velvet swimming crab (Liocarcinus puber), hermit crabs (Pagurus bernhardus), whelks (Buecinum undatum) and the nudibranch (Archidoris pseudoargus). Assessment of infauna suggests that the infaunal population in the vicinity of the reef was not overtly affected by
the presence of the reef. Sediment granulometry did not alter significantly between May 1989 and July 1991.
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