Artificial habitat structures are used to mitigate habitat loss within aquatic ecosystems and to increase angler catch rates; however, the potential trophic outcomes of concentrating fish at structure additions are rarely evaluated. We compared fish and fish prey assemblages between reservoir coves with and without newly added offshore habitat structures (PVC cubes enclosing 2.25 m3). Further, we tested whether offshore habitat additions changed fish assemblage and abundance in littoral habitats of treated coves. Coves with offshore structures had higher concentrations of fish and an assemblage structure dominated by Pomoxis and Lepomis species at offshore sites compared to coves without offshore structures. There was no evidence for an effect of offshore structures on fish relative abundance and assemblage structure in nearby littoral habitats. Zooplankton and benthic macroinvertebrate abundances did not change because of the addition of habitat structures. Lack of a response of lower trophic organisms may be due to low predation mortality or else losses to predation are replaced by increased prey production or immigration at the offshore structures. Our results indicated that artificial structures effectively concentrated fish, but increases in fish density may be partitioned among newly available structure in offshore habitats and existing structure within littoral habitats. Future studies are needed to test for a relationship between foraging space and food resources provided by artificial habitats, which may be useful for optimizing the number, size, and material composition of structures used in habitat enhancement programs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law