South Florida coastal waters, unlike the Gulf of Mexico, are unique by having both natural and artificial reefs closely associated with each other. In an effort to determine how artificial reefs are impacting soft bottom and neritic productivity, the infaunal and fish community of an established, concrete boulder reef was compared to the adjacent natural reefs. Situated between the first and second natural reef track just offshore of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the FDOT reef was deployed in 2009. Pre‐construction sediment cores were taken at approximately three and seven meters from each of the twelve boulders, and samples were chemically preserved for identification of infaunal organisms. Three and one‐half years post‐construction, repeated sediment cores were collected at four of the twelve boulders for comparison of infaunal communities. Additionally, similar infaunal samples were collected at two nearby rocky outcroppings of the natural inner reef and two nearby rocky outcroppings of the natural, middle reef. Infaunal community composition of the concrete boulder reef show distinct differences pre‐ and post‐construction. Preliminary data indicate soft bottom disturbance alters the invertebrate sediment community from one dominated by arthropods to one dominated by polychaete worms. Trophic relationships between the invertebrates and associated fish species are being assessed to try and determine if the type of invertebrates are influencing the presence of fish, and whether they actually forage at the artificial site or simply use the structure as refuge.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/amy-hirons/11/