FCE LTER Journal Articles


Artificial reefs concentrate nutrients and alter benthic community structure in an oligotrophic, subtropical estuary


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.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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