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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Land and Water Stewardship - Hard Bottom

Land and Water Stewardship

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Ocean Hard Bottom Habitat

Ocean Hard Bottom is also known reefs or live bottom.

ocean hard bottomEcosystem enhancement

Hard bottom provides hard complex vertical structure for attachment of sponges, seaweed, and coral, which in turn support a diverse reef fish community.

Fish use of hard bottom habitat

  • As many as 47 reef fish species inhabit nearshore ocean reefs (less than 60 ft. deep), and twice that number use offshore reefs. Many more invertebrates and fish also occur there.
  • Hard bottom provides numerous hiding places for small and juvenile reef fish such as gobies, gag, black sea bass and pigfish.
  • King mackerel forage over the reefs, while adult gag, black sea bass and snappers hunt among the structure.
  • Many species that live on hard bottom also spawn there. Examples include black sea bass, grouper, gobies and damselfish.
  • Some hard bottom species, such as black sea bass and gag, live in the coastal estuaries as juveniles.

Some important facts

  • The many wrecks off North Carolina (“graveyard of the Atlantic”) now function as hard bottom. The DMF also has an Artificial Reef program that adds new hard bottom areas to the system.
  • More than 90 percent of the hard bottom off North Carolina occurs south of Cape Lookout, some close to shore.
  • This habitat is also called “live rock” because of the abundance of plants and invertebrates that attach and cover it.

How's it doing?

Hard bottom locations have been partly mapped, but no habitat trends data are available. It is thought to be in relatively good shape.

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