Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Cameron Ainsworth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pamela Hallock-Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christopher Stallings, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Patterson, Ph.D.


Artificial Reefs, Carangidae, Generalized Additive Models, Lutjanidae, Northern Gulf of Mexico, West Florida Shelf


Artificial reefs have been deployed throughout the world’s oceans to act as habitat and fishing enhancement tools. To expand current research on the role of artificial reefs in the marine community, ordination and multivariate regression methods were used here to analyze survey data of natural and artificial reefs. The reefs, located in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) and on the West Florida Shelf (WFS), had been previously surveyed from 2004 to 2015 using remote operated vehicle and stationary video techniques. This study tested the hypothesis that similar functional roles are accounted for at both natural and artificial reef sites even if species composition varies. Secondly, it examines the role of environment and fisheries in determining the assemblages. Artificial reefs tended to host communities that were as biodiverse as natural reefs, although not necessarily composed of the same species. Results of an ordination confirmed that as the classification was broadened from the level of species, to family, to functional group, the assemblages on each reef type (natural vs. artificial and NGOM vs WFS) appeared more similar. Dominant groups were present at all levels of classification and included the families Lutjanidae and Carangidae, as well as functional groups Red Snapper and Small Reef Fish. Both natural and artificial reefs tended to be dominated by one of the following: Lutjanidae, Carangidae, or Small Reef Fish, although a continuous gradient was found across the extremes of natural versus artificial reefs. Generalized Additive Models were developed to examine the influence of reef type, location, environment and fishing intensity covariates. Results indicated that for both natural and artificial reefs, the abundance of families and functional groups can be influenced by environmental factors. In both cases, there is strong spatial autocorrelation suggesting connectivity with neighboring reefs.