Coastwide
Artificial reefs, such as this one off North Carolina, can support similar fish communities to nearby natural reefs, a synthesis led by NOAA finds. (Photo credit: J. McCord / Coastal Studies Institute).

USA - NOAA Study Finds Artificial Reefs Enhance Fish Communities, Solutions are Location-specific

Structures, such as vessels, concrete pipes, and bridge pieces, are intentionally placed on the seafloor as artificial reefs. These artificial reefs can be effective tools for enhancing fish communities, but solutions are not “one size fits all”, a new NOAA study suggests.

Scientists from NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) synthesized findings from 39 global, peer-reviewed publications that compared fish communities on artificial and natural reefs.

“Our team found that artificial and natural reefs tend to host similar amounts and varieties of fish as neighboring rocky or coral reefs” said Dr. Avery Paxton, a research associate with CSS Inc. under contract to NCCOS, who was lead author of the study.

Despite the overall conclusions that artificial and natural reefs perform similarly as fish habitat, the team discovered that artificial reefs in certain locations or composed of particular materials may perform better than others. “While we are not advocating for broad deployment of reef materials, our findings show that artificial reefs can benefit fish communities, however, location-specific siting and evaluations will be critical to their effectiveness” states Dr. Chris Taylor, a research ecologist at NCCOS and a co-author of the study.

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