Man-made structures as habitat for marine faunal assemblages
Sammanfattning: Artificial reefs are structures placed in the sea to promote marine life. Although constructions such as oil-rigs, wind farms, bridges and pier pilings are built for other purposes, they could be regarded as artificial reefs as they add new surfaces in the oceans, susceptible to colonization by marine organism. One of the most common constructions in the oceans is cylindrical structures of different materials. Most research of artificial reefs has been conducted in tropical and temperate water and experience and conclusions cannot always be applied to colder waters. Man-made constructions are common in northern European seas, however, few studies are presented in the scientific literature on their impact on the marine ecosystem. The aim of this thesis was to study cylindrical structures of different scale and materials, in order to determine their effect on local fish, algae and sessile invertebrate assemblages. These structures were offshore wind turbines, and pillars of different materials (concrete and steel), situated at the Swedish east and west coast, respectively. They add vertical surfaces into the otherwise empty water column, increasing the probability for fish and invertebrate larvae as well as algae spores and propagules to encounter these high structures, compared to low profile natural or other artificial reefs. Fish species usually associated with rocky reefs and algae communities, i.e. the two spotted goby and the goldsinny-wrasse, showed an increase in abundance around the introduced cylindrical structures. Similar effect on fish species were found on both the Swedish east and west coast. The observed increase in fish densities seemed to be caused by added habitat since the pillars and wind turbines provide shelter from predators as well as increased food availability. The latter was either due to the fouling assemblage or change in water movement. The environment created by the introduced structures functions both as nursery and spawning areas since juveniles, adults and gravid fish were recorded in close association with the structures. The fouling community on the vertical surfaces did not resemble the natural assemblages and a difference in recruitment and succession on the pillars of different materials were observed. Further, dissimilar fouling assemblages were observed with other species dominating the assemblages on a fifty year old light-house foundation compared to the seven year old wind turbines, both located in the same area. The sessile filter feeding invertebrates located on the foundations have an advantage in food accessibility towards individuals at the seabed, as the organisms on the foundations are constantly susceptible to the water passing by. In addition, by adding offshore structures in areas previously lacking hard surfaces, non-indigenous species could find new available habitat or the foundations can function as stepping stones into new geographical regions.
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