Artificial reefs are created namely by saltwater fishermen and sport divers. These reefs are thought to be equally as productive as actual reefs in sustaining life, and attracting all different varieties of sea creatures. While nature-made reefs are literally made up of living organisms, manmade reefs are made up of artificial materials, but are sustainable for up to 500 years.
Coral reefs attract extreme biodiversity by creating a lot of physical complexity in what might otherwise be a simple open-water, sandy-bottom situation. All the nooks and crannies translate in a wide variety of niches, and offer many different micro habitats for species to colonize. Oftentimes, a shipwreck will have a very similar effect, even though it’s not “natural”, per se. Man-made reefs, designed with ecological complexity in mind, can mimic the main benefits of a coral reef for biodiversity quite handily, as pointed out by ncbowman.
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