The addition of man-made structures to the marine environment is known to increase the physical complexity of the seafloor, which can influence benthic species community patterns and habitat structure. However, knowledge of how deployed tidal energy device structures influence benthic communities is currently lacking. Here we examined species biodiversity, composition and habitat type surrounding a tidal energy device within the European Marine Energy Centre test site, Orkney. Commercial fishing and towed video camera techniques were used over three temporal periods, from 2009 to 2010.
Our results showed increased species biodiversity and compositional differences within the device site, compared to a control site. Both sites largely comprised of crustacean species, omnivore or predatory feeding regimes and marine tide-swept EUNIS habitat types, which varied over the time. We conclude that the device could act as a localised artificial reef structure, but that further in-depth investigations are required.