ARTIFICIAL REEFS AS A PLATFORM FOR RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION IN CORAL REEF ECOSYSTEMS
Artificial reefs (ARs) increasingly are being deployed to mitigate damage to coral reef ecosystems from local anthropogenic stressors and climate change. Evaluating the efficacy of ARs in enhancing or sustaining reef assemblages is key to assessing their role in conservation or management. In this thesis, I review global patterns of AR deployment and monitoring in coral ecosystems, and evaluate their success in achieving conservation objectives. I also present results of a 13-month field experiment that compared patterns of colonization on settlement collectors (ceramic tiles) on ARs and natural reefs at Eilat, Gulf of Aqaba. I found that the composition of algal and invertebrate colonists differed with collector aspect (top or underside) and between reef types (ARs vs. natural reef) in shaded microhabitats (undersides). Invertebrate biomass also tended to be greater on ARs than natural reefs, suggesting that ARs can potentially enhance the abundance of certain reef-associated assemblages.