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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 486:105-119 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10345

Reductions in distribution, photosynthesis, and productivity of eelgrass Zostera marina associated with oyster Crassostrea virginica aquaculture

Marc A. Skinner1,*, Simon C. Courtenay1, Christopher W. McKindsey2

1Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Canadian Rivers Institute, Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 6E1, Canada
2Ocean and Environmental Sciences Division, Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Mont Joli, Quebec G5H 3Z4, Canada

ABSTRACT: This study provides the first quantitative description of the influence of suspended bag oyster aquaculture (SBOA) of Crassostrea virginica on the distribution, morphology, physiology, and productivity of eelgrass Zostera marina. We explored possible mechanisms related to decreased light availability, nutrient stress, organic loading, and physical damage from bags or boats. Surveys at multiple spatial scales across a 125 km range of Atlantic Canadian bays and estuaries demonstrated consistent declines in eelgrass biomass by as much as 79% at commercial culture leases versus reference areas. Reductions in biomass were negatively related to both oyster stocking density and the age of culture leases. We further observed reductions in the capacity of eelgrass photochemistry at culture sites, accompanied by primary production declines of 37.9%. Our data suggest that these reductions in Z. marina distribution, productivity, and photosynthetic rates are primarily occurring as a result of light limitation caused by shading from aquaculture equipment.


KEY WORDS: Zostera marina · Crassostrea virginica · Eelgrass · Oyster · Aquaculture · Photosynthesis · Pulse-amplitude modulated fluorometry · Atlantic Canada


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Cite this article as: Skinner MA, Courtenay SC, McKindsey CW (2013) Reductions in distribution, photosynthesis, and productivity of eelgrass Zostera marina associated with oyster Crassostrea virginica aquaculture. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 486:105-119. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10345

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