Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday
Photo by John Garza
An artificial reef is a man-made, underwater structure, typically built for the purpose of promoting marine life in areas of generally featureless bottom. Artificial reefs may also serve to improve hydrodynamics for surfing or to control beach erosion. Many reefs are built by deploying existing materials in order to create a reef. This can be done by sinking oil rigs (through the Rigs-to-Reefs program), scuttling ships (such as the USS Oriskany), or by deploying rubble, tires, or construction debris. Regardless of construction method, artificial reefs are generally designed to provide hard surfaces to which algae and invertebrates such as barnacles, corals, and oysters attach; the accumulation of attached marine life in turn provides intricate structure and food for assemblages of fish.
In some instances, however, the negative ecological impacts of artificial reefs may outweigh potential economic gains. For example, development of artificial reefs may cause an increase in overall visitation to an area, meaning more visitors to both artificial and natural reefs. Or, if artificial reefs are not carefully planned or constructed, they can actually damage natural habitats. In addition, monitoring observations indicate that many artificial structures are quickly becoming habitat and possibly a spawning source for invasive species such as the orange-cup coral.