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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 394:201-213 (2009)  -  DOI:

Effects of fishing disturbance on benthic communities and secondary production within an intensively fished area

Henning Reiss1,2,*, Simon P. R. Greenstreet3, Katrin Sieben1,2, Siegfried Ehrich4, Gerjan J. Piet5, Floor Quirijns5, Leonie Robinson6, Wim J. Wolff2, Ingrid Kröncke1

1Department for Marine Research, Senckenberg Institute, Südstrand 40, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany
2Department of Marine Benthic Ecology and Evolution, University of Groningen, Postbus 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands
3Marine Laboratory, Fisheries Research Services, PO Box 101, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK
4Institute of Sea Fisheries, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Palmaille 9, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
5Wageningen IMARES, Postbus 68, 1970 IJmuiden, The Netherlands
6Ecosystem Dynamics Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK

ABSTRACT: Demersal fishing alters seabed habitats and affects the structure and functioning of benthic invertebrate communities. At a critical level of disturbance, such communities may approach an equilibrium disturbed state in which a further increase in disturbance has little additional impact. Such arguments have been used to suggest that an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) should protect lightly fished areas and deflect fishing activity into areas that are already intensively fished. In this study, the effects of variation in fishing disturbance on the secondary production, species diversity, abundance, biomass, and community structure of benthic infauna were examined in a region of the German Bight (North Sea) that has been intensively trawled for decades. Variation in fishing disturbance across the study area was determined using automated position registration and vessel monitoring through satellite. Even in such a heavily fished area, linear regression analyses revealed that biomass, species richness, and production decreased significantly with increasing fishing intensity. Although redundancy analyses (RDA) showed that sediment characteristics were influential in determining the structure of the infauna community, partial RDA revealed that fishing continued to have an impact on community structure in terms of biomass. These results suggest that, in implementing an EAFM, managers will need to consider the possibility that, even in areas with high chronic fishing disturbance, further increases in fishing activity may still cause additional damage to benthic invertebrate communities.

KEY WORDS: Ecosystem functioning · Ecosystem management · Fishing impact · Benthic production · Species diversity · North Sea

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Cite this article as: Reiss H, Greenstreet SPR, Sieben K, Ehrich S and others (2009) Effects of fishing disturbance on benthic communities and secondary production within an intensively fished area. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 394:201-213.

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