Theses and Dissertations


Title: A COMPARISON OF THE FISH COMMUNITIES BETWEEN ARTIFICIAL REEFS WITH AND WITHOUT EPIBENTHIC COMMUNITIES

Name: Sutterer, Rebecca Ann

Degree: MS

Chair: Stephen T. Szedlmayer

Resides: FAA Library

University: Auburn University

Location: Auburn, Alabama

Date: 2005

Pages: 56

Keywords: artificial reef, fish communities, marine fishes, red snapper

Abstract:

Copper-based paint was used to prevent the development of epibenthic organisms on artificial reefs. Experimental habitats were built during June 2003 in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Fish communities were then compared between reefs with (n = 20) and without (n =20) epibenthic communities over a 12-month period. Diver visual surveys were used to estimate abundance offish and epibenthic communities in the fall (4-5October2003), winter(21November-December2003), and spring (5-20May2004). In June2004,'reefs were sampled with fish traps to make a relative comparison offish biomass. Coverage of epibenthic communities was greater on unpainted compared to painted reefs. Dominant fish species were similar between reefs during all survey periods and most were newly settled recruits. Red snapper,Lutjanus campechanus; gray triggerfish, Batistes capriscus; and belted sandfish, Serranus subligarius, preferred reefs with epibenthic communities. No differences were detected in cpue or fish condition between reef types, however larger L. carnpechanus were found on unpainted compared to painted reefs. Total fish abundance was greater on unpainted reefs (mean = 12.6 number m2, S.E. =0.5) compared to painted reefs (mean = 11.0 number m2, S.E. = 0.5). In the spring, 11 months after deployment, diversity and evenness were significantly greater on unpainted compared to painted reefs. This study clearly showed that epibenthic communities affected the recruitment of juvenile fishes to artificial reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Thus, fishes were attracted to reefs by the production of additional food resources as well as shelter.

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