The comparative effects of habitat complexity on faunal assemblages of northern temperate artificial and natural reefs

W. R. Hunter, M. D J Sayer

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Several north temperate marine species were recorded on subtidal hard-substratum reef sites selected to produce a gradient of structural complexity. The study employed an established scuba-based census method, the belt transect. The three types of reef examined, with a measured gradient of increasing structural complexity, were natural rocky reef, artificial reef constructed of solid concrete blocks, and artificial reef made of concrete blocks with voids. Surveys were undertaken monthly over a calendar year using randomly placed fixed rope transects. For a number of conspicuous species of fish and invertebrates, significant differences were found between the levels of habitat complexity and abundance. Overall abundance for many of the species examined was 2-3 times higher on the complex artificial habitats than on simple artificial or natural reef habitats. The enhanced habitat availability produced by the increased structural complexity delivered through specifically designed artificial reefs may have the potential to augment faunal abundance while promoting species diversity. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-698
Number of pages8
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009



  • Abundance, Activity indices, Artificial reef, Faunal assemblages, Habitat complexity, Scuba, Visual census

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