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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13192

Atlantic cod Gadus morhua save energy on stone reefs: implications for the attraction versus production debate in relation to reefs

Adina Schwartzbach, Jane W. Behrens*, Jon C. Svendsen

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reefs are structurally complex habitats that are degraded in numerous coastal areas. Structural complexity is often associated with elevated fish abundance, and recent studies have indicated that such structural complexity (e.g. reefs) not only acts as fish aggregators, but also increases fish production. The objective of this study was to advance this knowledge by investigating if an underlying mechanism of the observed productivity is related to reduced metabolic rates (proxy for energy use) of fish in reef habitats. Using juvenile Atlantic cod Gadus morhua, we tested the hypothesis that fish energy use differs between fish situated in stone reef and sand bottom habitats. Metabolic rate (MO2) was estimated using intermittent flow respirometry in simulated stone reef and sand bottom habitats over 24 h. Results revealed that G. morhua situated in the stone reef habitat exhibited significantly reduced accumulated MO2 compared to G. morhua in the sand bottom habitat. Likewise, there was a tendency for lower mean standard metabolic rates of the fish situated in stone reefs, although this pattern was not statistically significant. There are many mechanisms that may underpin elevated productivity in structurally complex habitats such as reefs, including better access to shelter and increased food availability. Our study adds to the line of mechanisms by showing that G. morhua save energy when occupying stone reefs as compared to sandy bottoms, energy which may be allocated to somatic and gonadal growth.