Some of the most productives and biodiverse communities occur on “reefs” (Birkeland, 2015). Many species benefit from physical presence of habitat-forming reefs which provide complex three-dimensional hard substrates and a greater number of ecological niches (Loke et al., 2015). Although reefs are often exemplified by “corals,” they also include other seafloor features such as biogenic substrates, natural bedrock, and man-made sub-sea structures (Steimle and Zetlin, 2000). Installation of sub-sea infrastructure is often considered to have negative impacts on surrounding marine ecosystems (Halpern et al., 2008; Benn et al., 2010; Bullieri and Chapman, 2010), although some studies show that such structures can also have beneficial effects by acting as “artificial reefs” (Gass and Roberts, 2006; Claisse et al., 2014).

Marine ecosystems are changing at alarming rates as a result of increasing anthropogenic influences (Halpern et al., 2008; McCauley et al., 2015; Duarte et al., 2020), and artificial structures are becoming ubiquitous. The sphere of influence, and effects of these artificial habitats on marine ecosystem dynamics, are poorly understood. This Research Topic assembles 11 articles investigating relationships between marine ecosystem dynamics and various types of anthropogenic structures globally. Here we present an overview of these contributions and highlight emerging views and future directions in this field.