Impact of structural habitat modifications in coastal temperate systems on fish recruitment: a systematic review
Shallow nearshore marine ecosystems are changing at an increasing rate due to a range of human activities such as urbanisation and commercial development. As a result, an increasing number of structural modifications occur in coastal nursery and spawning habitats of fish. Concomitant to this increase, there have been declines in many coastal fish populations and changes in the composition of fish communities. As requested by Swedish stakeholders, this review aimed to synthesise scientific evidence of the impact on fish recruitment of structural modifications in temperate coastal areas.
We searched for peer-reviewed and grey literature on such impacts in English, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, German, Swedish and Spanish. Searches were performed in bibliographic databases, specialist websites, bibliographies of review articles. We also contacted stakeholder to find relevant literature. Eligible studies included small- and large-scale field studies in marine systems and large lakes (> 10,000 km2) in temperate regions of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Included replicated comparisons of fish recruitment between altered and unaltered control areas, comparisons before and after an alteration, or both. Relevant outcomes (response variables) included measures of recruitment defined as abundance of juvenile fish in coastal habitats. All fish species were considered. Articles were screened for eligibility by title, abstract and full text. Eligible studies were critically appraised based on their external and internal validity. From each eligible study of sufficient validity, we extracted information on study design, measured outcomes, exposure, type of comparator, effect modifiers and study findings. Study findings were synthesised narratively.
We searched for eligible studies in 15 databases, 24 specialist websites, Google Scholar, and bibliographies of 11 review articles. The review finally included 37 studies that were eligible and of sufficient validity to be considered for final synthesis. Most studies (23 of 37) were from the Northern Hemisphere. Studies varied in design, spatial resolution, target fish species, and type of structural habitat change. This high level of variation did not allow for a quantitative synthesis and prevented us from drawing general conclusions on the impact of structures or structural modifications on fish recruitment. In this review we provide a narrative synthesis of the evidence base and classify eligible studies into six categories (based on type of exposure and comparator). The categories are as follows: the impacts on fish recruitment of: (1) artificial structures in coastal areas, (2) structures designed as fish attractors, (3) large scale urban sprawl, (4) ‘novel’ habitats, (5) habitat loss, and (6) restoration.
This review revealed a very limited evidence base for how structural modifications and marine urban sprawl can affect fish recruitment. Thus, there is a substantial mismatch between stakeholder needs and research evidence. Further, the impact and ecological performance of artificial structures depend both on context and species. Clearly, there is a need for more research on the subject, especially on long-term consequences at larger spatial scales.
Artificial structures, Coastal habitat loss, Coastal development, Juvenile fish, Marine urban sprawl, Nursery, Physical habitat change, Spawning ground, Young-of-the-year, YOY
Shallow nearshore marine ecosystems are changing at an increasing rate due to a range of human activities such as urbanisation and commercial development. The growing numbers of constructions and other physical and structural alterations of the shoreline often take place in nursery and spawning habitats of many fish and other aquatic species. Several coastal fish populations have seen marked declines in abundance and diversity during the past two decades. A systematic review on the topic would clarify if anthropogenic physical and structural changes of near-shore areas have effects on fish recruitment and which these effects are.
The review will examine how various physical and structural anthropogenic changes of nearshore fish habitats affect fish recruitment. Relevant studies include small- and large-scale field studies in marine and brackish systems or large lakes in temperate regions of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Relevant studies may be based on comparisons between undisturbed and disturbed areas, before and after disturbance, or both. Relevant outcomes include measures of recruitment defined as abundance of juveniles of nearshore fish communities. Searches will be made for peer-reviewed and grey literature in English, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, German, Swedish and Spanish. All fish species and species groups will be considered in this review. Included relevant studies will be subject to a critical appraisal that will assess study validity. From relevant included studies, we will extract information on study characteristics, measured outcomes, exposure, comparators, effect modifiers and critical appraisal. Data synthesis will contain narrative and summary findings of each included study of sufficient quality. Meta-analysis may be possible in cases where studies report similar types of outcomes.