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.
The authors 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.