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Free Content Artificial Reefs Concentrate Nutrients and Alter Benthic Community Structure in an Oligotrophic, Subtropical Estuary

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The construction of artificial reefs in the oligotrophic seagrass meadows of central Florida Bay attracted large aggregations of fish and invertebrates, and assays of nutrient availability indicated increases in availability of nutrients to sediment microalgae, periphyton, and seagrasses around reefs. An average of 37.8 large (> 10 cm) mobile animals were observed on each small artificial reef. The dominant fish species present was the gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus Linnaeus, 1758). Four yrs after the establishment of the artificial reefs, microphytobenthos abundance was twice as high in reef plots (1.7 ± 0.1 μg chl-a cm–2) compared to control plots (0.9 ± 0.1 μg chl-a cm–2). The accumulation of periphyton on glass periphytometers was four times higher in artificial reef plots (200.1 ± 45.8 mg chl-a m–2) compared to control plots (54.8 ± 6.8 mg chl-a m–2). The seagrass beds surrounding the artificial reefs changed rapidly, from a sparse Thalassia testudinum (Banks & Soland. ex König) dominated community, which persisted at control plots, to a community dominated by Halodule wrightii (Ascherson). Such changes mirror the changes induced in experimentally fertilized seagrass beds in Florida, strongly suggesting that the aggregations of animals attracted by artificial reefs concentrated nutrients in this oligotrophic seascape, favoring the growth of fast-growing primary producers like microphytobenthos and periphyton, and changing the competitively dominant seagrass from slow-growing T. testudinum to faster-growing H. wrightii in the vicinity of the reefs.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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