Influence of reef location on artificial-reef fish assemblages in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico
Artificial reef studies often focus on environmental, ecological, and physical factors that influence reef productivity, but few have focused on how reef location influences artificial-reef fish assemblages. The intent of this study was to evaluate how reef placement affects the structure
of artificial-reef fish assemblages. Diver visual surveys and catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) fishing surveys were used to obtain estimates of reef fish demographics (i.e., reef fish abundance, biomass, and size structure) at 14 prefabricated experimental artificial reefs of two reef designs
off coastal Alabama. Two- to three-fold differences in reef fish demographic measures were observed within replicate experimental reef designs. To determine which factors, specifically related to location (i.e., proximity of other reefs, size and density of surrounding reefs, etc.), contribute
to the observed variability in reef fish demographic measures, a side-scan sonar was used to quantify the abundance, distribution, and bottom area or footprints (m2) of natural reefs and previously deployed artificial reefs within 1 km2 of each experimental reef. Stepwise
regression was used to assess the amount of variability in reef fish demographics accounted for by side-scan sonar variables, reef design, season, and year. 36%–53% of the variability in reef fish demographics was explained. Reef fish biomass was negatively correlated with artificial
reef abundance and there was a negative correlation between red snapper mean total length and the total bottom area of artificial reefs surrounding experimental reefs. Proximity to other artificial reefs, reef design, and season also explained some of the observed variability in reef fish
abundance, biomass, and size structure.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: November 1, 2005
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