Colonization and community development of fish assemblages associated with estuarine artificial reefs

Heath Folpp Michael Lowry Marcus Gregson Iain M. Suthers About the authors


Despite the long history of the development of artificial structures in NSW estuaries there are no studies that provide any comprehensive scientific evaluation of post-deployment goals. We assessed the effectiveness of estuarine artificial reefs as a fisheries enhancement initiative; described the diversity and abundance of species associated with them, and detailed the patterns of colonization and community development associated with an artificial reef deployment in Lake Macquarie, a large coastal barrier lagoon on the southeast coast of Australia. Six artificial reefs (one artificial reef group), constructed from artificial reef units (Reef Balls®), were deployed in December 2005 and sampled six times per season over two years using baited remote underwater video (BRUV). Colonization of the artificial reef group was relatively rapid with the majority of species identified over the two-year study period observed within the first year post-deployment. Overall, 27 species from 17 families were identified. Key colonising species included Pelates sexlineatus (Terapontidae), Acanthopagrus australis (Sparidae), Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) and Rhabdosargus sarba (Sparidae). Species richness showed evidence of potential seasonal fluctuations, being higher in warm water months (Summer/Autumn), and lower in the colder water months (Winter/Spring), while species diversity increased significantly with reef age. Fish assemblage composition remained relatively stable after the first year of sampling, with few discernible patterns in assemblage structure evident after the first year. Distinct separation in reef age groupings was evident during the second year of sampling; a pattern primarily driven by a decrease in abundance of P. sexlineatus, a result of the isolated nature of the artificial reefs and the interrelated effects of density dependence and predation.

Artificial reef; Estuary; Fish; Colonization; Community development; Pelates sexlineatus; Acanthopagrus australis

A despeito da longa história do desenvolvimento de estruturas artificiais nos estuários de NSW, não existem estudos que apresentem uma avaliação global sobre os efeitos obtidos com o estabelecimento dessas estruturas. No presente trabalho abordamos a efetividade dos recifes artificiais estuarinos como iniciativa para aumento da pesca; descrevemos a diversidade e abundância das espécies a eles associadas; descrevemos os padrões de colonização e o desenvolvimento das comunidades associadas a um recife artificial colocado no Lago Macquaire, extensa lagoa de barreira situada na costa sudeste da Australia. Seis recifes artificiais (formando um único grupo), construídos a partir de unidades artificiais (Reef Balls®), foram lançados em Dezembro de 2005 e amostrados seis vezes a cada estação do ano, durante dois anos, utilizando video subaquático remoto (BRUV). A colonização dentro do grupo de recifes ocorreu de maneira relativamente rápida, sendo que a maioria das espécies identificadas nos dois anos de estudo foi observada durante o primeiro ano de amostragem. Um total de 27 espécies pertencentes a 17 famílias foram identificadas. As espécies chave do processo de colonização foram Pelates sexlineatus (Teraponidae), Acanthopagrus australis (Sparidae), Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) and Rhabdosargus sarba (Sparidea). A riqueza de espécies mostrou evidência de sazonalidade, enquanto a diversidade aumentou significativamente com o aumento da idade do recife. A composição da assembléia de peixes permaneceu relativamente estável após o primeiro ano de amostragem, com poucos padrões identificáveis relativos à estrutura. Durante o segundo ano tornou-se evidente a formação de grupos por idade, padrão primariamente ocasionado pelo decréscimo na abundância de P. sexlineatus; por sua vez este decréscimo mostrou ser resultado da natureza isolada do recife artificial e dos efeitos interdependentes de abundância e predação.

Recifes artificias; Estuário; Peixes; Colonização; Desenvolvimento da Ictiofauna; Pelates sexlineatus; Acanthopagrus australis

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    11 Oct 2011
  • Date of issue


  • Accepted
    11 Apr 2011
  • Reviewed
    17 Mar 2011
  • Received
    14 May 2010
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