Community convergence and recruitment of keystone species as performance indicators of artificial reefs

Jose Farinas Franco, Louise Allcock, David Smyth, David Roberts

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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An experimental artificial reefwas constructed in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland as part of trials to regenerate damaged biogenic reefs formed by the horse mussel Modiolus modiolus. Experimental reef plots were constructed using Pecten maximus shell as cultch. Clumps of live adult M. modiolus were translocated from nearby natural reefs into cultchwith a high profile (elevated cultch), cultch with a lowprofile (flattened cultch), as well as directly into the seafloor. The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that translocated mussel clumps would increase habitat complexity thus accelerating community succession and enhancing natural recruitment of M. modiolus spat. These effects were predicted to be greater on elevated cultch due to greater protection from
predators and increased accessibility to food resources. Within the artificial reef array the translocated clumps had a significant positive effect on recruitment compared to cultch without mussels with average densities of spat settled on the translocated M. modiolus clumps ranging from 100 to 200 individuals m-2 compared to 4 to 52 spat m-2 on cultch without mussels. Recruitment of M. modiolus spat was also significantly higher on translocated horse mussels when compared to natural reefs where densities of 8–36 spat m-2 were recorded.
Reef elevation appeared to provide some degree of protection from predators but differences in translocated M. modiolus survival on the different elevation treatments were not significant. In total, 223 taxa were recorded 12 months after reef construction. The presence of translocated clumps ofM. modiolus was the main driver of the increases in faunal diversity and species abundance. Application of objective criteria to assess the performance of artificial reefs suggested that translocation of M. modiolus clumps alone achieved most of the restoration objectives. Consequently this pilot study demonstrates a straightforward and realistic intervention technique that could be used to kick start the regeneration and expansion of impacted mussel and similar biogenic reefs elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 59-74
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Issue numbernull
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

This work was initiated during the Modiolus Restoration research Project funded by the DOE and DARD Northern Ireland (Contract Number S1553207) and completed by J.M. Fariñas-Franco during the tenure of a QUB special postgraduate research studentship.


  • Biogenic reef, Modiolus modiolus, shellfish, habitat restoration, artificial reef, community composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Oceanography

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