The Memorial Reef™ is designed to serve multiple functions; one is to create a marine habitat. Every angle and texture of the Reef was engineered by a marine biologist to attract and support certain marine life to build an ecosystem. For example, vertical structures were shaped to support corals and coraling algae. Benthic animals are supported with the texture of the base. Arches in the Memorial Reef™ were designed with a decorative hole. The marine biologist noted the hole is a great hiding place, so designed a metal configuration that allows prey animals passage while blocking predators.
Teaming with Life...
In 2012, the Memorial Reef™ is already teeming with life. 56 different species of fish are identified at the Reef, the most abundant being the Bluehead Wrasse. Sergeant Majors, Bar Jacks, and Tomtates are also present in substantial numbers. Fish diversity at the site appears to be increasing. Many species of crab and the long-spined sea urchin are found in crevices.
Benthic organisms, such as sponge and hydroid, are substantially present, particularly on the vertical surfaces of the Reef. Benthic sand and rubble and algae prefer the horizontal surfaces. Filefishes, trunkfishes, and pufferfishes also seem to prefer the vertical surfaces.
In 2012, 195 coral colonies were identified and 14 species, 5 more species of coral than the year before. The Memorial Reef™ can be quite rightly called a coral reef. This growth in coral species and colonies is an important increase, showing the Memorial Reef's™ artificial surface to be a suitable settlement habitat for reef building corals. During the 2012 study of the site, researchers observed other key species of the Florida coral reef community: spiny lobsters, spotted and green morays, cleractinian corals, keystone grazing urchin, and the rainbow parrotfish.
The Memorial Reef™ is developing its ecosystem at a faster rate than hoped, with more marine life than anticipated at this stage of development, and the added joy of unexpected species making an appearance. The Memorial Reef™ is an ecological success.