Dr K: Before I answer this question, I want to provide a quick definition of what an artificial reef is. An artificial reef is basically any kind of man made structure deployed in the marine landscape. Artificial reefs take a wide range of forms, from boulders and concrete rubble, to shipwrecks (both intentional and unintentional), to designed and purpose built modules, and they can be used for many different project goals, from shoreline stabilization to habitat restoration, to fisheries enhancement. Here in Long Island Sound, there is a lot of focus on fisheries, and artificial reefs certainly do provide habitat for many different types of commercially and recreationally popular fish, particularly those that are site associated (like to stay in one place) such as tautog and black seabass.
However, rocky reefs make up only a small portion of the natural habitat in Long Island Sound, and in general, this habitat is not heavily impacted by human activities.The species in question are also dependent on other habitats (like salt marshes and eelgrass beds) both as habitat when they are younger, and for food supply. Successful restorations must take into account all aspects of species ecology and attempt to restore a healthy balance of habitats, species and populations, so Long Island Sound Study tends to focus its restoration efforts on the habitats that are most impacted by human activity.
However, artificial reefs can play a role there as well. A recent project funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund aims to use artificial reef modules called Reef Balls to protect an eroding shoreline at Stratford Point, that is being replanted with salt marsh grasses. In this case, the artificial reef modules not only provide some habitat for fish and invertebrates, they help reduce wave action and stabilize the shoreline, which will hopefully improve the success of the marsh grass restoration, which in turn provides even more habitat. Scientists at Sacred Heart University are studying the effectiveness of this technique, including measuring how much wave energy is absorbed by the artificial reef (that’s what the fancy looking buoy is doing!). You can watch a video of this project on LISS’s YouTube channel.
Jason Krumholz, aka Dr., K, is the NOAA liaison to EPA’s Long Island Sound Office. Dr. Krumholz received his doctorate in oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.
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Send an e-mail to Jason Krumholz.. Dr. Krumholz is a marine scientist working as the NOAA liaison to the EPA Long Island Sound Office. View more of Dr. K’s questions and answers on the Ask Dr. K blog.
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