Much of the focus on our artificial reef projects is on making structures that are great habitat and growing surfaces for corals. But of course coral also need fish and other marine animals to function properly as part of a healthy ecosystem. So what can we do to improve the abundance of fish around our most popular artificial reef styles? Shivani Ehrenfeucht conducted an internship with our program in 2013 as part of her Undergraduate Honors Thesis, and looked at easy and cheap methods to do just that.
Her paper details the available literature on the influence of structure complexity on reef fish abundance and assemblages, and also describes the experiment she conducted. In her experiment, Shivani constructed 5 replicate artificial reef structures and placed them down in near proximity to each other in the sands at Hin Ngam Bay. On four of the structures she attached corals, and 1 remained as a control. Of those 4 experimental structures, she filled two of them with rubble and rocks, and left two empty.
Over the next several weeks she recorded 32 different species of fish at the structures. At the end of the 27 days study period she had found some very interesting information about the development of fish communities around the structures over time. This information helps our program to continue improving our techniques, and also helps to push global reef managers to design artificial reef structures that are structurally complex without adding much to costs.
You can download Shivani’s full paper, Artificial Coral Reefs as a Method of Coral Reef Fish Conservation in PDF from the University of Colorado website.