MEPS 315:151-165 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps315151

Impact of clam and mussel farming on benthic metabolism and nitrogen cycling, with emphasis on nitrate reduction pathways

Daniele Nizzoli1, David T. Welsh2,*, Elisa Anna Fano3, Pierluigi Viaroli1

1Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 33/A, 43100 Parma, Italy
2School of Environmental and Applied Sciences, and Centre for Aquatic Processes and Pollution, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, PMB 50 GC Mail Centre, Bundall 9726 Queensland, Australia
3Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Via L. Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The influences of suspended mussel and infaunal clam cultivation on benthic metabolism and nutrient cycling were compared in Goro lagoon, Italy. Both aquaculture types stimulated benthic metabolism, with sediment oxygen demand (SOD), CO2 and ammonium effluxes of up to 14, 16 and 1.2 mmol m–2 h–1. However, whilst mussel farming preferentially stimulated anaerobic metabolism and sediment reduction, clam farming did not. The mussel ropes were also large oxygen sinks and ammonium sources, with oxygen consumption and ammonium production rates of 1.4 to 1.5 and 0.18 to 0.43 mmol kg–1 h–1. Consequently, the overall impacts of mussel farming on oxygen and nutrient dynamics were much greater than those of clam farming. There were also differences in nitrate-reduction processes and the nitrate sources that fuelled them. In winter, at high water column nitrate concentrations, highest nitrate reduction rates (~320 µmol m–2 h–1) occurred at the mussel farm. Nitrate reduction was driven predominantly by water column nitrate and ~30% of nitrate reduced was recycled to ammonium via dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). At the control and clam farm sites, nitrate reduction rates were lower (~180 µmol m–2 h–1), nitrification supplied ~30% of nitrate and denitrification was dominant. In summer under low nitrate conditions, nitrate reduction was highest (~130 µmol m–2 h–1) at the mussel farm site, but this activity was completely dependent upon water column nitrate and 95% of nitrate was reduced via DNRA. In contrast, at the clam farm station, DNRA was unimportant and nitrification was the major nitrate source for denitrification. Consequently, whilst nitrate reduction processes eliminated fixed N from the clam farm sediments via coupled nitrification-denitrification, the dominance of DNRA at the mussel farm site resulted in a net N input to the sediment compartment. These large differences in the impacts of clam and mussel farming can be explained by the fact that infaunal clams stimulate transfer of both organic matter and oxygen to the sediment, whereas suspended mussels enhance only organic matter inputs.


KEY WORDS: Aquaculture impacts · Tapes philippinarum · Mytilus galloprovincialis · Biodeposition · Nutrient cycles · Nitrification · Denitrification · Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium


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