The effects of Biorock-associated electric fields on the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Healthy coral reefs are biologically diverse and provide vital ecosystem services. However, decreasing water quality and global warming are key contributors to coral reef decline, which poses substantial environmental threats. In response to this degradation, an innovative coral reef restoration technology, called Biorock, utilizes weak direct current electric fields to cause limestone deposition on conductive materials, inevitably inducing prolific coral reef growth. Although expediting coral growth, research on how the associated electric fields may impact the behavioural patterns of teleosts and/or organisms (i.e. elasmobranchs) possessing electroreception capabilities is lacking. Therefore, we studied the behavioural responses of two shark species, the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) and multiple teleost species towards weak direct current electric fields in Bimini, Bahamas. Generalized linear mixed model analyses based on 90 trials illustrate that both the feeding and avoidance behaviors of C. leucas and C. perezi were significantly associated with treatment type, with the weak experimental electrode treatments resulting in the greatest quantity of avoidances and fewest feedings for both species. However, data analyses illustrate that teleost feeding behavior was not observably impacted by experimental treatments. Although the Biorock technology exhibits promise in coral reef restoration, the findings from this study illustrate a need for future large-scale studies assessing shark behavioral patterns around these devices, since the deterrence of apex predators may impact ecosystem balance.

publication date

  • 2017