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Concern Lingers on Success of Artificial Reefs
By Wendy Heller, December 28, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Livescience.com

Although such reefs have at times done more harm than good, scientists explained artificial reefs are getting better and better.

The deliberate creation of artificial reefs goes back to at least the 17th century in Japan, where fisherman built reefs with oyster shells to attract fish. Artificial reefs provide a base for corals, sponges and other life to encrust, in time drawing the rich diversity of sea life for which coral reef ecosystems are renowned.

"There are about 350 artificial reef sites around the state of Florida, contributing more habitats for ocean life than we would have otherwise," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.

Good and bad

The past 50 years saw artificial reefs built using anything from obsolete oilrigs and decommissioned warships to junk such as tires and washing machines. Not all have proven boons to the environment — some have proven ineffective or actually harmful.

For instance, tires dropped off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in the 1970s ultimately broke loose from their restraints, killing natural reefs as they drifted about. Other trash simply did not make good reefs — the enamel coating on washers and dryers, for example, foils growth.

"We've gotten smarter since then — we know what materials to use now to build artificial reefs," Perry said. "We don't want to just throw anything out there in the water — artificial reefs aren't just dump sites."

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