Benthic input rates predict seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) fish farm-induced decline

E. Diaz-Almela, N. Marba, E. Alvarez, R. Santiago, M. Holmer, A. Grau, S. Mirto, R. Danovaro, A. Petrou, M. Argyrou, I. Karakassis, Carlos Duarte

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Fish farms represent a growing source of anthropogenic disturbance to benthic communities, and efficient predictors of such impacts are urgently needed. We explored the effects offish farm benthic organic and nutrient inputs on the population dynamics of a key seagrass species (Posidonia oceanica) in four Mediterranean deep meadows adjacent to sea bream and sea bass farms. We performed two annual plant censuses on permanent plots at increasing distance from farms and measured benthic sedimentation rates around plots. High shoot mortality rates were recorded near the cages, up to 20 times greater than at control sites. Recruitment rates increased in variability but could not compensate mortality, leading to rapid seagrass decline within the first 100 m from cages. Seagrass mortality increased with total sedimentation rates (K=0.55, p <0.0002), and with organic matter (K=0.50, p=0.001), total nitrogen (K = 0.46, p = 0.002) and total phosphorus (K = 0.56, p <3 center dot 10(-5)) inputs. P. oceanica decline accelerated above a phosphorus loading threshold of 50mg m(-2) day(-1). Phosphorus benthic sedimentation rate seems a powerful predictor of seagrass mortality from fish farming. Coupling direct measurements of benthic sedimentation rates with dynamics of key benthic species is proposed as an efficient strategy to predict fish farm impacts to benthic communities. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1332-1342
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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