Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Bulletin of Marine Science





First Page


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Fish assemblages in relation to “reef” structures in marine habitats have been and continue to be topics for research addressing ecological and management questions. Much effort has been spent describing and defining fish assemblages, or groups of species, associated with tropical coral reefs (e.g., Sale 1991 and chapters therein), temperate hard bottom or rocky reefs (e.g., Sedberry and Van Dolah, 1984; Ambrose and Swarbrick, 1989), tropical lava flows (e.g., Godwin and Kosaki, 1989), and artificial “fishing” reefs (e.g., Chandler et al., 1985; Hueckel and Buckley, 1987; Bohnsack, 1989; Feigenbaum et al., 1989; Rountree, 1989; Stephan and Lindquist, 1989). Temperate oyster reefs, another natural reef type, host diverse finfish assemblages that are just beginning to be described (e.g., Wenner et al. 1996; Mann and Harding, 1997; Luckenbach et al. 1998 and references therein).

Before Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) populations were significantly reduced by environmental degradation, fishing pressure, and disease, oyster reefs dominated the intertidal areas of Chesapeake Bay and supported complex ecological communities including many fish species. The living shell matrix created by these predominantly intertidal, estuarine reefs provides structural heterogeneity and vertical relief that attract and sustain fishes from many trophic levels similar to living coral reefs (Roberts and Ormond, 1987; Ebeling and Hixon, 1991; Friedlander and Parrish, 1998). Recreationally and commercially valuable piscivorous finfishes including striped bass (Morone saxatilis), bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), and weakfish (Cynoscion regalis) were and are integral components of trophic networks that depend on oyster reefs (Mann and Harding, 1997, 1998). These pelagic finfishes use oyster reefs as both feeding and nursery grounds (e.g., Breitburg, 1998; Mann and Harding, 1997, 1998; J. Harding and R. Mann, unpubl. data).


Artificial Reefs; Coral-Reef; Assemblages