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Fish assemblages and rapid colonization after enlargement of an artificial reef off the Algarve coast (Southern Portugal)


Francisco Leitão, IPIMAR, Avenida 5 de Outubro s/n, 8700-305 Olhão, Portugal.


Artificial reefs (ARs) have been deployed in Algarve (Southern Portugal) coastal waters to contribute to the sustainability of local nearshore fisheries. Herein, we describe the colonization process of the recently deployed Faro/Ancão AR, and assess the time until the fish assemblage reaches stability and their seasonal patterns. In addition, we compare the results from the present study with those previously reported for an older AR. The fish assemblages were monitored monthly over a 2-year period by means of visual census. A rapid increase in fish colonization occurred within the first 4 months. After this initial period the assemblage structure showed high similarity (> 73%). The high rate of colonization of the AR was related to the maturity already achieved by the nearby 14-year-old AR and to the fish migration from the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nearby nursery habitat. The reef fish assemblage structure showed a seasonal pattern, mainly associated with recruitment episodes of occasional demersal species (Boops boops, Trachurus trachurus and Pagellus spp.) in spring and summer. A total of 66% of the species found in AR are of commercial and recreational importance. The overall mean density and biomass were 2.8 ind·m−3 and 207 g·m−3. The occasional demersal species accounted for 42% of the fish density. The most important species in terms of biomass belong to the Sparidae family along with Dicentrarchus labrax. The fish assemblage of the new ARs showed higher mean number of species, diversity, density and biomass values than those reported for the older AR. This result was associated with enlargement of the AR area and with the fishing exploitation of the isolated, small and patchy old AR. Moreover, the high biomass values recorded in the new ARs were mainly due to the increased density of D. labrax after AR enlargement. The results of the present study are used to define guidelines for suitable management strategies for the AR areas that are exploited by the local commercial and recreational fisheries.