MEPS 584:229-244 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12349

Intertidal invertebrate harvesting: a meta-analysis of impacts and recovery in an important waterbird prey resource

Leo. J. Clarke1,*, Kathryn M. Hughes2, Luciana S. Esteves1, Roger. J. H. Herbert1, Richard A. Stillman

1Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Fern Barrow, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5BB, UK
2Natural Resources Wales, Maes y Ffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd, Bangor, Wales, UK, LL57 2DW
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Harvesting of marine invertebrates in intertidal areas often comes into conflict with conservation objectives for waterbird populations of the orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes. We present a meta-analysis of the relationships between benthic invertebrate communities and various sources of intertidal harvesting disturbance to investigate impacts and recovery in bird prey resources. The effect size (Hedges’ d) of harvesting on benthic species abundance, diversity and biomass was calculated for 38 studies in various locations globally, derived from 16 publications captured through a systematic review process that met the meta-analysis inclusion criteria. A negative response to harvesting disturbance was found for all taxa, including both target and non-target species, that represent important types of waterbird prey. Impacts appear most severe from hand-gathering, which significantly reduces the abundance of target polychaete species, a key prey group for many bird species. Across all gear types, non-target species demonstrate a larger reduction in abundance compared to target species. Recovery trends vary, with differences observed between taxonomic groups and gear/habitat combinations. Abundance of bivalve molluscs, a potentially highly profitable bird prey item, is suppressed for >60 d by mechanical dredging in intertidal mud, while annelid and crustacean abundances demonstrate near recovery over the same period. Data suggest that recovery following harvesting in sandier habitats may in some cases take as long as or longer than in muddy sediments. We recommend management measures to minimise disturbance to benthic prey resources and support conservation objectives for waterbird populations to meet international legal requirements.


KEY WORDS: Fishing impacts · Intertidal · Invertebrates · Waterbirds · Prey abundance


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Cite this article as: Clarke LJ, Hughes KM, Esteves LS, Herbert RJH, Stillman RA (2017) Intertidal invertebrate harvesting: a meta-analysis of impacts and recovery in an important waterbird prey resource. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 584:229-244. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12349

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