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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 14:15-34 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00426

REVIEW
Aquaculture and eelgrass Zostera marina interactions in temperate ecosystems

L. M. Howarth1,*, L. M. Lewis-McCrea1, L. M. Kellogg2, E. T. Apostolaki3, G. K. Reid1

1Centre for Marine Applied Research, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4T5, Canada
2Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Biological Sciences, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062-1346, USA
3Institute of Oceanography, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research PO Box 2214, 71003 Heraklion, Crete, Greece
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This paper reviews the impacts of shellfish and finfish aquaculture on eelgrass Zostera marina, the most widely distributed seagrass species in the northern hemisphere. Shellfish aquaculture can have positive, neutral, and negative effects on eelgrass. Positive interactions can be generated by the filtering activity of cultured bivalves, which may improve water quality and reduce epiphyte loads, and shellfish biodeposits may provide more nutrients to eelgrass and other vegetation. However, negative responses are more commonly reported and can be caused by shading and sedimentation. These negative effects tend to occur directly under and immediately surrounding shellfish farms and rapidly diminish with increasing distance. In contrast to shellfish aquaculture, only one field study has investigated the effects of finfish aquaculture on eelgrass in a temperate setting, and the results were inconclusive. However, many studies have investigated the effects of Mediterranean finfish farms on 2 other species of seagrass (Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa). These studies reported clear negative interactions, which have been linked to increased nutrient concentrations, sulphides, sedimentation, epiphyte loads, and grazing pressure. It is unknown if these studies are relevant for finfish aquaculture in temperate regions due to differences in environmental conditions, and because the studies focused on different species of seagrass. Thus, further study in a temperate setting is warranted. We conclude by highlighting key research gaps that could help regulators establish unambiguous operational and siting guidelines that minimize the potential for negative interactions between aquaculture and eelgrass.


KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Shellfish · Finfish · Sedimentation · Shading · Nitrogen · Eutrophication


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Cite this article as: Howarth LM, Lewis-McCrea LM, Kellogg LM, Apostolaki ET, Reid GK (2022) Aquaculture and eelgrass Zostera marina interactions in temperate ecosystems. Aquacult Environ Interact 14:15-34. https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00426

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