Artificial habitats host elevated densities of large reef-associated predators.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Large predators play important ecological roles, yet many are disproportionately imperiled. In marine systems, artificial reefs are often deployed to restore degraded reefs or supplement existing reefs, but it remains unknown whether these interventions benefit large predators. Comparative field surveys of thirty artificial and natural reefs across ~200 km of the North Carolina, USA coast revealed large reef-associated predators were more dense on artificial than natural reefs. This pattern was associated with higher densities of transient predators (e.g. jacks, mackerel, barracuda, sharks) on artificial reefs, but not of resident predators (e.g., grouper, snapper). Further analyses revealed that this pattern of higher transient predator densities on artificial reefs related to reef morphology, as artificial reefs composed of ships hosted higher transient predator densities than concrete reefs. The strength of the positive association between artificial reefs and transient predators increased with a fundamental habitat trait-vertical extent. Taller artificial reefs had higher densities of transient predators, even when accounting for habitat area. A global literature review of high trophic level fishes on artificial and natural habitats suggests that the overall pattern of more predators on artificial habitats is generalizable. Together, these findings provide evidence that artificial habitats, especially those like sunken ships that provide high vertical structure, may support large predators.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Paxton, AB; Newton, EA; Adler, AM; Van Hoeck, RV; Iversen, ES; Taylor, JC; Peterson, CH; Silliman, BR

Published Date

  • January 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 / 9

Start / End Page

  • e0237374 -

PubMed ID

  • 32877404

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7467309

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0237374


  • eng