Net pen fish farms generally enrich the surrounding waters and the underlying sediments with nutrients and organic matter, and these loadings can cause a variety of environmental problems, such as algal blooms and sediment anoxia. In this study we test the potential of biofiltration by artificial reefs for reducing the negative environmental impacts surrounding fish farms in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Two triangular-shaped artificial reefs (reef volume 8.2 m3) constructed from porous durable polyethylene were deployed at 20 m; one below a commercial fish farm and the other 500 m west of this farm in order to monitor the colonization of these reefs by the local fauna and to determine whether the reef community can remove fish farm effluents from the water. Both reefs became rapidly colonized by a wide variety of organisms with potential for the removal of compounds released from the farms. Within the first year of this study fish abundances and the number of species reached 518-1185 individuals per reef and 25-42 species per reef. Moreover, numerous benthic algae; small sessile invertebrates (bryozoa, tunicates, bivalves, polychaetes, sponges, anemones) and large motile macrofauna (crustaceans, sea urchins, gastropods) settled on the reef surfaces. Depletion of chlorophyll a was measured in the water traversing the artificial reefs in order to assess the biofiltration capacity of the associated fauna. Chlorophyll a was significantly reduced to a level 15-35% lower than ambient concentrations. This reduction was greatest at intermediate current speeds (3-10 cm s-1), but was not influenced by current direction. The reef structures served as a successful base for colonization by natural fauna and flora, thereby boosting the local benthic biodiversity, and also served as effective biofilters of phytoplankton.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge Avinoam Breitstein for his assistance in construction and deployment of the reefs, the ‘Ar-dag’ staff who kindly assisted in deployment of the reefs and in numerous small favors, Debbie Lindell who helped with chl a determinations and comments on this manuscript and the NCM for constant financial and logistical support for this important and innovative research. This study was partially supported by grant #2098 from the Israeli Ministry of Environment.
- Artificial reef
- Environmental impact
- Fish farm
- Red Sea
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science