In the coming decades, artificial defence structures will increase in importance worldwide for the protection of coasts against the impacts of global warming. However, the ecological effects of such structures on the natural surroundings remain unclear. We investigated the impact of experimentally introduced tetrapod fields on the demersal fish community in a hard-bottom area in the southern North Sea. The results indicated a significant decrease in fish abundance in the surrounding area caused by migration effects towards the artificial structures. Diversity (HB) and evenness (E) values exhibited greater variation after the introduction of the tetrapods. Additionally, a distinct increase in young-of-the-year (YOY) fish was observed near the structures within the second year after introduction. We suggest that the availability of adequate refuges in combination with additional food resources provided by the artificial structures has a highly species-specific attraction effect. However, these findings also demonstrate that our knowledge regarding the impact of artificial structures on temperate fish communities is still too limited to truly understand the ecological processes that are initiated by the introduction of artificial structures. Long-term investigations and additional experimental in situ work worldwide will be indispensable for a full understanding of the mechanisms by which coastal defence structures interact with the coastal environment.
Supplement to: Wehkamp, Stephanie; Fischer, Philipp (2013): Impact of coastal defence structures (tetrapods) on a demersal hard-bottom fish community in the southern North Sea. Marine Environmental Research, 83, 82-92