Seasonal Dynamics of Fish Assemblages on Breakwaters and Natural Rocky Reefs in a Temperate Estuary: Consistent Assemblage Differences Driven by Sub-Adults

Publisher:
Public library of Science
Publication Type:
Journal article
Citation:
Fowler, Ashley and Booth, David 2013, 'Seasonal Dynamics of Fish Assemblages on Breakwaters and Natural Rocky Reefs in a Temperate Estuary: Consistent Assemblage Differences Driven by Sub-Adults', PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 9, pp. e75790-1-e75790-12.
Issue Date:
2013
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Development of infrastructure around cities is rapidly increasing the amount of artificial substrate (termed artificial reef, `AR?) in coastal marine habitats. However, effects of ARs on marine communities remain unknown, because it is unclear whether ARs can maintain similar communities to natural reefs. We investigated whether well-established (> 30 years old) breakwaters could consistently approximate fish assemblages on interspersed rocky reefs in a temperate estuary over 6 consecutive seasons using regular visual surveys between June 2009 (winter) and November 2010 (spring). We examined whether assemblage differences between reef types were driven by differences in juvenile recruitment, or were related to differences in older life-stages. Assemblages on both reef types were dominated by juveniles (61% of individuals) and sub-adults (34% of individuals). Seasonal fluctuations in assemblage parameters (species richness, diversity, sub-adult abundance) were similar between reef types, and levels of species diversity and assemblage composition were generally comparable. However, abundance and species richness were consistently higher (1.9-7.6 and 1.3-2.6 times, respectively) on breakwaters. These assemblage differences could not be explained by differences in juvenile recruitment, with seasonal patterns of recruitment and juvenile species found to be similar between reef types. In contrast, abundances of sub-adults were consistently higher (1.1-12 times) at breakwaters, and assemblage differences appeared to be driven by this life-stage. Our results indicate that breakwaters in temperate estuaries are capable of supporting abundant and diverse fish assemblages with similar recruitment process to natural reefs. However, breakwaters may not approximate all aspects of natural assemblage structure, with differences maintained by a single-life stage in some cases.
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