Coral Reefs

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 195–205 | Cite as

Community structure of stony and soft corals on vertical unplanned artificial reefs in Eilat (Red Sea): comparison to natural reefs

  • Shimrit Perkol-FinkelEmail author
  • Yehuda Benayahu


In many reef ecosystems, artificial reefs (AR) have become permanent additions to the area, sustaining well-developed benthic communities. Long-term studies on the development of AR coral communities are scarce, and comparisons with their natural surroundings are limited. The present study describes the stony and soft coral community structure of unplanned vertical AR in Eilat (Red Sea) that have progressed beyond the initial successional phases, and compares these to the adjacent natural reefs (NR). Coral communities were characterized using belt transects, conducted on 34- and 14-year-old unplanned AR, and on two proximate NR. Stony corals were the major component in the NR, while soft corals, mainly Nephtheidae, accounted for up to 90% of the total living coverage in the AR. This was attributed to physical and biological features associated with the AR’s vertical orientation, which was absent in the NR, and to the life history traits of these soft corals. Community differences between the two AR were related to structural stability and age. The results suggest that AR may increase local heterogeneity and space availability by adding novel habitats, increasing production and elevating species diversity in the surroundings.


Artificial reefs Coral reefs Biodiversity Multivariate analysis Red Sea 



We would like to thank the Interuniversity Institute of Eilat for its assistance and for making its facilities available to us. Dr. N. Shashar, G. Yahel, and T. Dagan are acknowledged for fruitful discussions and advice. We appreciate the critical comments of Prof. H. Lasker, Prof. R. Richmond, and of the anonymous reviewers, which greatly improved the quality of the manuscript. We acknowledge Eilat’s Naval Base authorities, the Dolphin Reef management, and the Israeli Nature and National Park Protection Authority for cooperation. We thank N. Paz for editorial assistance and V. Wexsler for graphical assistance. We also thank the Tel Aviv University Zoological Museum and Prof. Y. Loya for the use of the stony coral reference collection. The paper constitutes part of the Ms. Thesis submitted by S.P-F. This study was supported in part by a grant to Y.B. (# 6713–00) from the National Geographic Society.


  1. Aseltine-Neilson DA, Bernstein BB, Palmer-Zwahlen ML, Riege LE, Smith RW (1999) Comparisons of turf communities from Pendleton artificial reef, Torrey Pines artificial reef, and a natural reef using multivariate techniques. B Mar Sci 65(1):37–57Google Scholar
  2. Baine M (2001) Artificial reefs: a review of their design, application, management and performance. Ocean Coast Manage 44:241–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baynes TW, Szmant AM (1989) Effect of current on the sessile benthic community structure of an artificial reef. B Mar Sci 44:545–566Google Scholar
  4. Benayahu Y (1985) Faunistic composition and patterns in the distribution of soft corals (Octocorallia Alconacea) along the coral reefs of Sinai Peninsula. In: Richard G (ed) Proc 5th Int Coral Reef Symp, Tahiti, French Polynesia, 27 May–1 June 1985, 6:255–260Google Scholar
  5. Benayahu Y, Loya Y (1977) Space partitioning by stony corals soft corals and benthic algae on the coral reefs of the northern Gulf of Eilat (Red Sea). Helgoland Wiss Meer 30:362–382Google Scholar
  6. Benayahu Y, Loya Y (1987) Long-term recruitment of soft corals (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) on artificial substrata at Eilat (Red Sea). Mar Ecol–Prog Ser 38:161–167Google Scholar
  7. Bohnsack JA, Sutherland DL (1985) Artificial reef research: a review with recommendations for future priorities. B Mar Sci 37:11–39Google Scholar
  8. Bohnsack JA, Ecklund AM, Szmant AM (1997) Artificial reef research: Is there more than the attraction-production issue? Fisheries 22:14–16Google Scholar
  9. Bray JR, Curtis JT (1957) An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecol Monogr 27:325–349Google Scholar
  10. Brown BE, Dunne RP, Goodson MS, Douglas AE (2000) Marine ecology: Bleaching patterns in reef corals. Nature 404:142–143Google Scholar
  11. Carr MH, Hixon MA (1997) Artificial reefs: the importance of comparisons with natural reefs. Fisheries 22:28–33Google Scholar
  12. Chou LM (1997) Artificial reefs of Southeast Asia – do they enhance or degrade the marine environment? Environ Monit Assess 44:45–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chou LM, Lim TM (1986) A preliminary study of the coral community on artificial and natural substrates. Malay Nat J 39:225–229Google Scholar
  14. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretations. National Environment Research Council, Swindon, UKGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark S, Edwards AJ (1995) Coral transplantation as an aid to reef rehabilitation: Evaluation of a case study in the Maldive Islands. Coral Reefs 14:201–213Google Scholar
  16. Clark S, Edwards AJ (1999) An evaluation of artificial reef structures as tools for marine habitat rehabilitation in the Maldives. Aquat Conserv 9:5–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dahan M, Benayahu Y (1997a) Reproduction of Dendronephthya hemprichi (Cnidaria: Octocorallia): year-round spawning in an azooxanthellate soft coral. Mar Biol 129:573–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dahan M, Benayahu Y (1997b) Clonal propagation by the azooxanthellate octocoral Dendronephthya hemprichi. Coral Reefs 16:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Done TJ (1999) Coral community adaptability to environmental change at the scales of regions, reefs and reef zones. Am Zool 39:66–79Google Scholar
  20. Fabricius KE, Genin A, Benayahu Y (1995) Flow-dependent herbivory and growth in zooxanthellae-free soft corals. Limnol Oceanogr 40:1290–1301Google Scholar
  21. Fisk DA, Harriott VJ (1990) Spatial and temporal variation in coral recruitment on the Great Barrier Reef: implications for dispersal hypotheses. Mar Biol 107:485–490Google Scholar
  22. Glasby TM (2001) Development of sessile marine assemblages on fixed versus moving substrata. Mar Ecol–Progr Ser 215:37–47Google Scholar
  23. Goren R (1992) Benthic communities on artificial substrata at Eilat (Red Sea). MSc Thesis, Tel-Aviv University, Israel (Hebrew; English summary)Google Scholar
  24. Grossman GD, Johnes GP, Seanan WJ (1997) Do artificial reefs increase regional fish production? A review of existing data. Fisheries 22:17–23Google Scholar
  25. Hawkins JP, Roberts CM, Van’t Hof T, De Meyer K, Tratalos J, Aldam C (1999) Effects of recreational scuba diving on Caribbean coral and fish communities. Conserv Biol 13:888–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holloway MG, Connell DS (2002) Why do floating structures create novel habitats for subtidal epibiota? Mar Ecol–Prog Ser 235:43–52Google Scholar
  27. Hughes TP, Connell JH (1999) Multiple stressors on coral reefs: a long term perspective. Limnol Oceanogr 44:932–940Google Scholar
  28. Kuffner IB (2001) Effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on larval settlement of the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis. Mar Ecol–Prog Ser 217:251–261Google Scholar
  29. Lambshead PJD, Platt HM, Shaw KM (1983) The detection of differences among assemblages of marine benthic species based on an assessment of dominance and diversity. J Nat Hist 17:859–874Google Scholar
  30. Lasker HR, Coffroth MA (1999) Response of coral reef taxa to environmental change. Am Zool 39:92–103Google Scholar
  31. Loya Y (1972) Community structure and species diversity of hermatipic corals at Eilat, Red Sea. Mar Biol 13:100–123Google Scholar
  32. Lutzky S (1997) Reproductive strategies of two soft coral species: Scleronephthya corymbosa and Nephthea sp. MSc Thesis, Tel-Aviv University, Israel (Hebrew; English summary)Google Scholar
  33. Mundy C, Babcock R (1998) Role of light intensity and spectral quality in coral settlement: implications for depth-dependant settlement. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 223:235–255Google Scholar
  34. Mundy C, Babcock R (2000) Are vertical distribution patterns of scleractinian corals maintained by pre- or post-settlement processes? A case study of three contrasting species. Mar Ecol–Prog Ser 198:109–119Google Scholar
  35. Relini G, Relini M, Montanari M (2000) An offshore buoy as a small artificial island and a fish-aggregating device (FAD) in the Mediterranean. Hydrobiologia 440:65–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Riegl B (1995) Effects of sand deposition on scleractinian and alcyonacean corals. Mar Biol 121:517–526Google Scholar
  37. Rilov G, Benayahu Y (1998) Vertical artificial structures as an alternative habitat for coral reef fishes in disturbed environments. Mar Environ Res 45:431–451Google Scholar
  38. Schuhmacher H (1974) On the conditions accompanying the first settlement of corals on artificial reefs with special reference to the influence of grazing sea urchins (Eilat, Red Sea). In: Cameron AM (ed) Proc 2nd Int Coral Reef Symp, Brisbane, Australia, October 1974, 1:257–267Google Scholar
  39. Seaman W (2002) Unifying trends and opportunities in global artificial reef research, including evaluation. ICES J Mar Sci 59:S14-S16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Seaman W, Jensen AC (2000) Purposes and practices of artificial reef evaluation. In: Seaman W (ed) Artificial reef evaluation with application to natural marine habitats. CRC, Boca Raton, FL, pp 2–19Google Scholar
  41. Shannon CE, Weaver W (1964) The mathematical theory of communication. University of Illinois Press, Urbarna, ILGoogle Scholar
  42. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1985) Biometry. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  43. Svane IB, Petersen JK (2001) On the problems of epibiosis, fouling and artificial reefs, a review. PSZNI Mar Ecol 33:169–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weil D (1990) Life history of the alcyonacean Litophyton arboreum in the Gulf of Eilat: sexual and asexual reproduction. MSc Thesis, Tel-Aviv University, Israel (Hebrew; English summary)Google Scholar
  45. Wendt PH, Knott DM, Van Dolah RF (1989) Community structure of the sessile biota on five artificial reefs of different ages. B Mar Sci 44:1106–1122Google Scholar
  46. Wilhelmsson D, Ohman MC, Stahl H, Shlesinger Y (1998) Artificial reefs and dive tourism in Eilat, Israel. Ambio 27:764–766Google Scholar
  47. Wilkinson CR (2000) Executive summary. In: Wilkinson CR (ed) Status of coral reefs of the world: 2000. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia pp 7–19Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life SciencesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations