Water and the flat seafloor get a little help
Enhancing a habitat
Nearshore waters begin where the land ends, stretching from the sandy beaches of Texas to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. The bottom is mostly soft mud or sand with occasional bars and troughs to break its flatness.
Since the 1940s, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been placing artificial reefs in nearshore waters to attract plants and animals that normally can't live here. These reefs are built of materials like stone rubble, trees, concrete, old ships, and oil rigs.
If we build it, they will come
Adding artificial reefs to nearshore waters opens these areas up to seaweeds, mussels, shrimp, crabs and a host of other animals, including the fish that feed on them.
Animals aren't the only ones to benefit from the reefs, though. Fish schooling about the man-made reefs attract commercial and recreational anglers. Recently, scuba divers have also discovered the reefs and the fascinating animals and plants that live here.
Great barracuda are referred to as slash and grab predators. They use their big tail for speed and their sharp teeth to disable prey.
Animals go with the flow or dig in
Naturally, the soft bottom and lack of cover make life a challenge to plants and animals in the nearshore waters. Most plants can't live here at all since there's no hard surface to grow on. The few animals that do live here must either float above the bottom or burrow into it.
In the water, fish swim against the waves while tiny plants and jellyfish drift with them. Down below, a rich community of worms, crabs, clams, sand dollars and their kin filter food from the water or stalk each other beneath the sand.
Crevalle Jacks are attracted to artificial reef because of the abundance of bait fish that gather there.
These grow attached to the reef
Artificial reefs provide hard, upright surfaces in the otherwise flat-bottomed nearshore waters. Barnacles, oysters, mussels, sponges, corals and even some algae quickly encrust the reefs while crabs, shrimp, sea urchins and others nestle in their cracks and crevices.
Many fish you don't usually find in nearshore waters live around artificial reefs. Some come to eat the reefs' animals while others are drawn by the shelter they offer. Some fish just pass through, mostly predators lured from the open Gulf by the abundance of fish on the reef.