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Predator exclusion cages are commonly used to enclose settlement tiles to distinguish between pre- and post-recruitment processes. Biofouling of experimental cages and other field apparatuses can be problematic, and has traditionally been addressed using frequent manual removal (e.g., scrubbing twice per week). However, such intense efforts can be both labor intensive and costly, especially with apparatuses in remote locations, and may also have unintended effects on study results. Recent environmental restrictions and legislative changes have driven the development of less hazardous antifouling products, making antifouling paint a potential alternative option to manual removal. The viability of using these newly developed products as a replacement for the manual cleaning of exclusion cages was experimentally investigated. Six treatment levels were tested, three with and three without antifouling paints. The three antifouling treatments consisted of two reduced-copper paints (21% Cu2O and 40% Cu2O) and one copper-free, Econea®-based paint (considered “ecofriendly”). Antifouling paints were assessed for performance on the cages and whether they elicited local effects on settlement tiles contained within them. The community compositions, biomass, and percent cover of tiles inside cages treated with the copper-based paints were indistinguishable from those inside manually scrubbed cages, while the “ecofriendly” paint resulted in reduced local settlement. The results of this study suggest that the reduced-copper paints tested have the potential to serve as a viable replacement for manual maintenance.
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