Artificial reef

Artificial reef

An artificial reef is a man-made, underwater structure, typically built for the purpose of promoting marine life in areas of generally featureless bottom. Artificial reefs may also serve to improve hydrodynamics for surfing or to control beach erosion.

Artificial reefs can be built in a number of different methods. Many reefs are built by deploying existing materials in order to create a reef. This can be done by sinking oil rigs (through the Rigs-to-Reefs program), scuttling ships, or by deploying rubble, tires, or construction debris. Other artificial reefs are purpose built (e.g. the enormously successful and effective reef balls) from PVC and/or concrete. Historic or modern shipwrecks become unintended artificial reefs when preserved on the sea floor. Regardless of construction method, artificial reefs are generally designed to provide hard surfaces to which algae and invertebrates such as barnacles, corals, and oysters attach; the accumulation of attached marine life in turn provides intricate structure and food for assemblages of fish.


The construction of artificial reefs is thousands of years old, although the historic usages were related to sea power rather than aquaculture.Ancient Persians blocked the mouth of the Tigris River to thwart Indian pirates by building an artificial reef, [Thomas Wayne Williams, "A Case Study of Artificial Reef Decision-Making in the Florida Keys", Virginia CommonwealthUniversity [] Last accessed 20 December 2006] and during the First Punic War the Romans built a reef across the mouth of the Carthaginian harbor in Sicily to trap the enemy ships within [ Ron Hess, Denis Rushworth, Michael V. Hynes, John E. Peters, "Disposal Options for Ships," Chapter 5, "Reefing," Rand Corporation, [] Last accessed 20 December 2006] and assist in driving the Carthaginians from the island.

The use of artificial reefs to increase fish yields or for algaculture also has a long history. During the 1600s reefs of building rubble and rocks were used in Japan to grow kelp, [ "Fisheries Technologies for Developing Countries", National Academies Press [
] Last accessed 20 December 2006
] while the earliest recorded construction of artificial reef in the United States is from 1830s when logs from huts were used off the coast of South Carolina to improve fishing. [Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, "GUIDELINES FOR MARINE ARTIFICIAL REEF MATERIALS", [] Last accessed 20 December 2006]

In the early 1970s, a series of thousands of disused vehicle tires were dumped off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to form an artificial reef, causing environmental problems over time. See Fort Lauderdale tire reef.

In Late 2000, The MTA New York City Transit had decided to phase out its outdated fleet of subway cars to make room for the R142 & R142A trains. These subway cars commonly referred to as Redbirds ran on the IRT lines in the New York City Subway system for over 40 years. Each car was sold, stripped, decontaminated, loaded on a barge, and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. In some cases, few of the cars had their number plates removed because of rust. Over 1,200 subway cars had been sunk.

In September 2007, The MTA had approved a contract, worth over $6 million, that would send more than 1,600 of its retired subway cars to be used as artificial reefs. Most of these trains ran on The BMT/IND lines. The Trains include the R32, R38 , and R40, all of these models are stainless steel all to be replaced with the R160A & R160B trains. Most of the trains had plastic front ends. These plastic pieces were removed before being sunk. The retired fleet also included old work trains along with some subway cars that have been severely damaged beyond repair.

Artificial surfing reefs

Artificial surfing reefs have been created for surfing, coastal protection, habitat enhancement and coastal research. The world's first attempt was made in El Segundo, near Los Angeles, in California. The next attempt was at Cable Beach, Perth, Western Australia. This reef was constructed of large granite rocks placed in a pyramidal shape to form an appropriate breaking wave form that would suit surfers. An artificial reef constructed of over 400 massive, geotextile bags (each one larger than a bus) filled with sand was constructed in 2000 at Narrowneck on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia. This artificial reef had two objectives: stabilizing beach nourishment and improving surfing conditions. Initially the structure produced some exceptional surfing conditions, however settlement of the geotexile sandbags, as well as huge differences between the design and final reef shape means that the surfing has only been moderately improved.

Artificial surfing reefs typically resemble a "submerged breakwater", and proponents have suggested additional benefits beyond improving surfing conditions. In Hawaii and California, long stretches of coast are subject to powerful waves that crash directly onshore. An artificial reef situated 150-300 yards offshore might not only create surfing opportunities but, by dissipating wave energy before it strikes the shore, create safer swimming areas and reduce coastal erosion.

The USS Spiegel Grove was sunk in 2002 to make an artificial reef. In United States, in particular, complex coastal permitting requirements combined with environmental opposition provide a major obstacle to building surfing reefs. As of February 2006, the only reef built in the U. S. specifically for surfing purposes is "Pratte's Reef" in southern California. Artificial reefs built for enhancement of marine habitat face far less environmental opposition, in part because they are located in much deeper water some distance offshore. A number of such man-made reefs exist off of Florida and in Hawaii.

Mineral accretion

Artificial surfaces are being grown using a process called "mineral accretion". In mineral accretion, a low voltage current is applied to a metallic structure to cause limestone to accrete or build on the surface, upon which coral planulae can attach and grow. This greatly speeds the coral growth process on artificial surfaces. The voltage is low enough that it can be generated by floating solar panels or from wave motion.

A coalition of scientists known as the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) has been developing a technique called the Biorock Process using mineral accretion for reef restoration, mariculture, and shore Protection.

Environmental concerns

The multi-million-dollar cleanup of Osborne Reef, a tire dump near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has prompted questions about the risks of creating artificial reefs. In Florida, the tires posed a particular threat after breaking free from their restraints. The tires then migrated shoreward and ran into a living reef tract, climbed up its slope and killed everything in their path. According to The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington-based environmental group, the Florida reef may be an indication that the benefits of artificial reefs need to be re-examined. Jack Sobel, a senior scientist at the group, has said "There's little evidence that artificial reefs have a net benefit." [ Florida Raises Ill-Fated Artificial Reefs] ]


See also

* artificial wave
* Marine debris
* Osborne Reef, a failed artificial reef constructed of old tires
* Biorock
* Sinking ships for wreck diving sites

External links

* [ Bournemouth Surf Reef]
* []
* [ Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia]
* [ Cables Beach surfing reef] Perth, Australia
* [ California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program] (CARE)
* [ The Reef Ball Foundation]
* [ Plans for Europe's First Artificial Reef] Bournemouth UK
* [ The Global Coral Reef Alliance]
* [ Biorock Process]
* [ NYC Subway Redbird car scrappings]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • artificial reef — materials placed on the sea floor that serve as habitat for marine organisms including fishes. Can be anything from old tires to a sunken ship …   Dictionary of ichthyology

  • Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia — The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) is a registered non profit organization based in Vancouver, British Columbia. They began operations in 1989, with the G.B. Church project, and have since sunk 7 ships and 1 Boeing 737. Their …   Wikipedia

  • Artificial wave — Artificial waves are man made waves usually created on a specially designed surface or in a pool.Artificial waves are created in one or two ways. First, if the wave is created on a designed surface, water is shot over the surface at a high speed… …   Wikipedia

  • Artificial sunlight — is the use of a light source to simulate sunlight where the unique benefits of sunlight are needed, but where sufficient natural sunlight is not available or is not feasible. The concept has various applications including greenhouse lighting,… …   Wikipedia

  • Reef — In nautical terminology, a reef is a rock, sandbar, or other feature lying beneath the surface of the water (six fathoms or less at low water).Many reefs result from abiotic processes deposition of sand, wave erosion planning down rock outcrops,… …   Wikipedia

  • Multi-purpose reef — A multi purpose reef, also commonly known as an artificial surfing reef or surf reef, is a structure located offshore designed to induce wave breaking in a manner that creates a wave suitable for surfing or body boarding. Artificial surfing reefs …   Wikipedia

  • Osborne Reef — Underwater photo of the tires constituting Osborne R …   Wikipedia

  • The Reef Ball Foundation — Infobox Non profit Non profit name = Reef Ball Foundation, Inc. Non profit Non profit type = 501(c)(3) founded date = 1993 founder = Todd Barber location = Athens, Georgia, USA origins = key people = area served = focus = Ocean ecosystem repair… …   Wikipedia

  • Chevron Reef — Chevron Reef, also known as Pratte s Reef, is an artificial reef constructed in 2000 in Santa Monica Bay, offshore from Dockweiler State Beach. It is the first artificial surfing reef in the United States and was the second to be built… …   Wikipedia

  • Coral reef — Marine habitats Biodiversity of a coral reef Lit …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.