Typically, the word “fouling” implies something negative: a foul ball, fouling one’s nest, an infraction of the rules, etc. Anti-fouling is what boats need, and we are religious in fighting growth by vigorous cleaning wherever we don’t want it.
Biologically speaking, however, it is a miraculous display of the persistence and cooperation of life forms! Wikipedia defines it as: Biofouling or biological fouling is the accumulation of micro-organisms, plants, algae, or animals on wetted surfaces.
Wikipedia continues: The variety among biofouling organisms is highly diverse, and extends far beyond attachment of barnacles and seaweeds. According to some estimates, over 1,700 species comprising over 4,000 organisms are responsible for biofouling. Biofouling is divided into microfouling — biofilm formation and bacterial adhesion — and macrofouling — attachment of larger organisms. Due to the distinct chemistry and biology that determine what prevents them from settling, organisms are also classified as hard- or soft-fouling types. Calcareous (hard) fouling organisms include barnacles, encrusting bryozoans, mollusks, polychaete and other tube worms, and zebra mussels. Examples of non-calcareous (soft) fouling organisms are seaweed, hydroids, algae and biofilm "slime". Together, these organisms form a fouling community.
Biofouling initial process: (left) Coating of submerged "substratum" with polymers. (moving right) Bacteria attachment and EPS matrix formation.
Marine fouling is typically described as following four stages of ecosystem development. The chemistry of biofilm formation describes the initial steps prior to colonization. Within the first minute the van der Waals interaction causes the submerged surface to be covered with a conditioning film of organic polymers. In the next 24 hours, this layer allows the process of bacterial adhesion to occur, with both diatoms and bacteria (e.g. vibrio alginolyticus, pseudomonas putrefaciens) attaching, initiating the formation of a biofilm. By the end of the first week, the rich nutrients and ease of attachment into the biofilm allow secondary colonizers of spores of macroalgae (e.g. enteromorpha intestinalis, ulothrix) and protozoans (e.g. vorticella, Zoothamnium sp.) to attach themselves. Within 2 to 3 weeks, the tertiary colonizers- the macrofoulers- have attached. These include tunicates (squirt jellies), mollusks (oysters) and sessile Cnidarians (jellies).
So, why put you through such a scientific lesson? It is because this biofouling works really well on the surface of ReadyReefs. As noted, almost immediately, life starts happening on our reefs, whether in the intertidal zone or submerged. You really cannot say this is typical or prolific with granite or gneiss riprap surfaces. The reef’s calcareous oyster shells and even the concrete have surface chemistry and physical features that are loved by marine fauna and flora. Strike densities, species variety, and colors can be amazing. Tropical corals might trump an oyster reef in some ways, but they are there and oysters are here in the Chesapeake Bay.
And what goes on in the reef neighborhood is equal to behold: competition, feeding, spawning, mating, shedding, foraging, hiding, and even stalking (Great Blue Herons in particular).
With all this life on our reefs, this is why we reject the term "artificial reefs". ReadyReef provides the man made substrates, but the brawling community that populates their surfaces is anything but artificial.