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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 214:93-102 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps214093

Composition of biofouling communities on suspended oyster cultures: an in situ study of their interactions with the water column

N. Mazouni1,*, J.-C. Gaertner2, J.-M. Deslous-Paoli1

1IFREMER, Laboratoire DEL - Ecologie, BP 171, 34203 Sète-cedex, France
2Centre d¹Océanologie de Marseille, Fédération de Recherche 6106, Rue de la Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
*Present address: CEPRALMAR, Rue de la République, 34000 Montpellier, France. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: This study was based on in situ experiments conducted in a shellfish lagoon (Thau, France) to determine the interactions between suspended oyster Crassostrea gigas Thunberg cultures and their environment at a seasonal scale. Three groups of descriptors were considered simultaneously during the course of the study: the taxonomic composition of an oyster culture unit (OCU), the nutrient and oxygen exchanges at the OCU-water interface (fluxes) and the water-column characteristics (water). We used a multiple factorial analysis (MFA) to assess in a single reference frame: (1) the seasonal organisation of the taxonomic groups which compose the OCU and (2) the interactions between this multispecific assemblage and the water column. We found strong seasonal variability in the OCU composition and the OCU interactions with the water column. Taxonomic richness of the biofouling was at a maximum in spring and minimum in August after a bottom anoxia. Among biofouling species, ascidians always constituted the dominant group. The annual pattern of coexistence observed between ascidians and oysters might be explained by resource partitioning, and also by a beneficial trophic interaction between these 2 groups. The structure of the OCU was based on a complex system of interactions, particularly in spring. During this season, the development on the OCU of macrofauna of soft substratum such as polychaetes reflected the presence of a suspended sediment compartment. The influence of the OCU on the water column was maximum in summer and minimum in winter. In the shellfish zone, the OCU plays a central role in nutrient renewal, particularly in summer when benthic fluxes are insufficient to satisfy phytoplankton nitrogen requirements. We estimate that the multispecific assemblages occurring on the oyster ropes (oysters and biofouling) have a potential annual DIN production of 2 x 107 mol yr-1, and thus oyster cultures could have a determining influence on nitrogen recycling in the water column in the Thau lagoon.

KEY WORDS: Oyster culture · Biofouling · Multicompartment approach · Fluxes · Ascidians

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