Artificial reefs are now commonly used as a tool to restore degraded coral reefs and have a proven potential to enhance biodiversity. Despite this, there is currently a limited understanding of ecosystem functioning on artificial reefs, and how this compares to natural reefs. We used water sampling (bottom water sampling and pore water sampling), as well as surface sediment sampling and sediment traps, to examine the storage of total organic matter (as a measure of total organic carbon) and dynamics of dissolved inorganic nitrate, nitrite, phosphate and ammonium. These biogeochemical parameters were used as measures of ecosystem functioning, which were compared between an artificial reef and natural coral reef, as well as a degraded sand flat (as a control habitat), in Bali, Indonesia. We also linked the differences in these parameters to observable changes in the community structure of mobile, cryptobenthic and benthic organisms between habitat types. Our key findings showed: (1) there were no significant differences in inorganic nutrients between habitat types for bottom water samples, (2) pore water phosphate concentrations were significantly higher on the artificial reef than on both other habitats, (3) total organic matter content in sediments was significantly higher on the coral reef than both other habitat types, and (4) total organic matter in sediment traps in sampling periods May and September were higher on coral reefs than other habitats, but no differences were found in November. Overall, in terms of ecosystem functioning (specifically nutrient storage and dynamics), the artificial reef showed differences from the nearby degraded sand flat, and appeared to have some similarities with the coral reef. However, it was shown to not yet be fully functioning as the coral reef, which we hypothesise is due its relatively less complex benthic community and different fish community. We highlight the need for longer term studies on artificial reef functioning, to assess if these habitats can replace the ecological function of coral reefs at a local level.



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Marine Biology







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School of Biological and Marine Sciences