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MEPS 675:35-52 (2021)  -  DOI:

A generic approach to develop a trait-based indicator of trawling-induced disturbance

Olivier Beauchard1,2,*, Anik Brind’Amour3, Michaela Schratzberger4, Pascal Laffargue3, Niels T. Hintzen5, Paul J. Somerfield6, Gerjan Piet5

1Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Utrecht University, Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems, Korringaweg 7, PO Box 140, Yerseke 4401 NT, the Netherlands
2Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
3IFREMER, Unité Ecologie et Modèles pour l’Halieutique, rue de l’Ile d’Yeu, BP 21105, 44311 Nantes Cedex 3, France
4Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
5Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen UR, IJmuiden 1970 AB, the Netherlands
6Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Biological trait analysis has become a popular tool to infer the vulnerability of benthic species to trawling-induced disturbance. Approaches using multiple traits are being developed, but their generic relevance across faunal components and geographic locations remains poorly tested, and the importance of confounding effects are poorly recognised. This study integrates biological traits of benthic species that are responsive to instantaneous effects of trawling (i.e. sensitivity) and traits expressing recoverability over the longer term (i.e. years). We highlight the functional independence between these 2 components in response to trawling, test the behaviours of single and combined traits and account for potential confounding effects of environment and trawling intensity on benthic communities through variation partitioning. Two case studies are considered: epibenthos from the Bay of Biscay and endobenthos of the Dutch sector of the North Sea. The response to trawling is most pronounced when multiple traits covering different aspects that determine population dynamics (i.e. sensitivity and recoverability) are combined, despite confounding effects between gradients of benthic production and trawling intensity, especially for endobenthos. The integration of traits reflecting both sensitivity and recoverability provides complementary information on the faunal response to trawling, bridging the gap between fishing impact assessments and benthic community status assessments.

KEY WORDS: Benthic macroinvertebrate · Bottom trawling · Natural history · Biological trait · Composite indicator · Time scale · Confounding effect

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Cite this article as: Beauchard O, Brind’Amour A, Schratzberger M, Laffargue P, Hintzen NT, Somerfield PJ, Piet G (2021) A generic approach to develop a trait-based indicator of trawling-induced disturbance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 675:35-52.

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