Epibenthic and mobile species colonisation of a geotextile artificial surf reef on the south coast of England
OPEN PloS one | 20 Sep 2017
RJH Herbert, K Collins, J Mallinson, AE Hall, J Pegg, K Ross, L Clarke and T Clements
With increasing coastal infrastructure and use of novel materials there is a need to investigate the colonisation of assemblages associated with new structures, how these differ to natural and other artificial habitats and their potential impact on regional biodiversity. The colonisation of Europe’s first artificial surf reef (ASR) was investigated at Boscombe on the south coast of England (2009-2014) and compared with assemblages on existing natural and artificial habitats. The ASR consists of geotextile bags filled with sand located 220m offshore on a sandy sea bed at a depth of 0-5m. Successional changes in epibiota were recorded annually on differently orientated surfaces and depths using SCUBA diving and photography. Mobile faunal assemblages were sampled using Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV). Distinct stages in colonisation were observed, commencing with bryozoans and green algae which were replaced by red algae, hydroids and ascidians, however there were significant differences in assemblage structure with depth and orientation. The reef is being utilised by migratory, spawning and juvenile life-history stages of fish and invertebrates. The number of non-native species was larger than on natural reefs and other artificial habitats and some occupied a significant proportion of the structure. The accumulation of 180 benthic and mobile taxa, recorded to date, appears to have arisen from a locally rich and mixed pool of native and non-native species. Provided no negative invasive impacts are detected on nearby protected reefs the creation of novel yet diverse habitats may be considered a beneficial outcome.
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