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PLOS ONE  2013 

Coral Colonisation of an Artificial Reef in a Turbid Nearshore Environment, Dampier Harbour, Western Australia

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075281

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A 0.6 hectare artificial reef of local rock and recycled concrete sleepers was constructed in December 2006 at Parker Point in the industrial port of Dampier, western Australia, with the aim of providing an environmental offset for a nearshore coral community lost to land reclamation. Corals successfully colonised the artificial reef, despite the relatively harsh environmental conditions at the site (annual water temperature range 18-32°C, intermittent high turbidity, frequent cyclones, frequent nearby ship movements). Coral settlement to the artificial reef was examined by terracotta tile deployments, and later stages of coral community development were examined by in-situ visual surveys within fixed 25 x 25 cm quadrats on the rock and concrete substrates. Mean coral density on the tiles varied from 113 ± 17 SE to 909 ± 85 SE per m2 over five deployments, whereas mean coral density in the quadrats was only 6.0 ± 1.0 SE per m2 at eight months post construction, increasing to 24.0 ± 2.1 SE per m2 at 62 months post construction. Coral taxa colonising the artificial reef were a subset of those on the surrounding natural reef, but occurred in different proportions—Pseudosiderastrea tayami, Mycedium elephantotus and Leptastrea purpurea being disproportionately abundant on the artificial reef. Coral cover increased rapidly in the later stages of the study, reaching 2.3 ± 0.7 SE % at 62 months post construction. This study indicates that simple materials of opportunity can provide a suitable substrate for coral recruitment in Dampier Harbour, and that natural colonisation at the study site remains sufficient to initiate a coral community on artificial substrate despite ongoing natural and anthropogenic perturbations.


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