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Impact of mechanical Arenicola dredging on the benthic fauna communities: assessed by a morphological and molecular approach

Lise Klunder*, Judith D. L. van Bleijswijk, Loran Kleine Schaars, Henk W. van der Veer, Pieternella C. Luttikhuizen

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ABSTRACT: Lugworm (Arenicola spp.) dredging affects the intertidal benthic community in the Dutch Wadden Sea. Previous studies have found contradicting results regarding the recovery rates of targeted and non-targeted macrozoobenthic species and meiobenthic communities have been neglected in these studies. The current study explores the short-term effects of dredging on both the macrofaunal and the meiofaunal communities using a morphological and a molecular approach. Benthic samples were collected right before and regularly after dredging for up to 1.5 years, at both control and fished transects. Significant differences between the control and fished transects were found by morphological and molecular approaches. Ordination analysis suggests distinct community compositions between control and fished transects in the first months after dredging. Opportunistic species with short life cycles, typically more than one generation per year, thrived more in the fished transects during the spring/summer season compared to these species in the control transects in the same season whereas recovery for long-lived species was slow. Both approaches showed comparable results, however, the molecular approach was more sensitive to the effects on a larger set of benthic taxa when compared to the morphological approach.