Benthic survey of natural and artificial reefs off Mar del Plata, Argentina, southwestern Atlantic
This study describes the macrofaunal assemblages of subtidal rocky reefs off Mar del Plata in order to compare the macro invertebrate assemblages settled on shipwrecks with those of nearby reef sand to characterize the fish fauna associated with natural (NR) and artificial (AR) reefs. Topographic characterizations and surveys of invertebrates and fishes were performed in November and December 2005, using SCUBA diving. A non-parametric multivariate analysis was used to analyze the environmental and biological data. The reefs were mainly distinguished by their depth and the position of the substrate. The red calcareous algae, Corallina officinalis, dominated the shallowest NR, whereas conspicuous mytilid assemblages of Mytilus platensis were present at depths over 3 m, sea anemones, Anthothoe chilensis, were more abundant between 6 and 10 m, and the soft coral, Tripalea clavaria, was found at nearly 20 m depth. No differences were found between horizontal ARs and the adjacent NRs. The greatest differences were found between the communities of vertical and horizontal substrates, both in NRs and ARs. Fifteen fish species were recorded in the analyzed area. Species having strong site fidelity, e.g., Acanthistius brasilianus and Pseudopercis semifasciata, were clearly more abundant and/or frequent in ARs (shipwrecks) than in NRs. This pioneer study in the surveyed area showed that reef sallow the settlement of diverse benthic assemblages. ARs also provide refuge for fishes. As sport fishing and diving are activities being carried out in Mar del Plata, where tourism is one of the main economic resources, the protection of such areas should be considered in conservation plans.