Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Chet Rakocinski

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Mark S. Peterson

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Richard Fulford

Abstract

One of the fundamental questions of artificial reef research concerns the capability of these manmade structures to promote secondary production. Many researchers have questioned whether artificial reefs increase the production of fish biomass, or simply aggregate existing fish biomass. Most previous research has focused on production of transient fish biomass, because of the high recreational and commercial value of these species. Establishing a link between transient fish production and artificial reef primary and secondary production has proved difficult. Therefore, the goal of this study was to examine the productivity of benthic fishes resident to artificial reefs in the Mississippi Sound, and to link this productivity to the artificial reef community through trophic relationships. This study examined differences in condition of benthic fishes resident to four artificial reefs of two profile types distributed across the Mississippi Sound. Poorer condition was found in several benthic fish species on concrete high profile reefs relative to low profile oyster shell reefs. Subregion also appeared to effect poorer condition in the eastern subregion. Diet volume was low in Gobiesox strumosus from high profile reefs, and contents differed across both reef types and subregions. Differences in diet contents may have been related to prey taxa tolerance of abiotic conditions and substrate type preferences. These results suggest reef material, design and abiotic conditions relating to specific reef location may affect availability or accessibility to specific prey taxa for resident fishes, and that this may in turn strongly affect production of biomass in resident fishes.

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