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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

    AEI prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Spill-over from aquaculture may provide a larval subsidy for the restoration of mussel reefs

    Craig Norrie*,Brendon Dunphy, Moninya Roughan, Simon Weppe, Carolyn Lundquist

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Worldwide bivalve aquaculture is expanding rapidly. Simultaneously, there has been a loss of natural bivalve reefs due to anthropogenic activities. As bivalve reefs support several ecosystem functions disproportionate to the area they cover, there is interest in their restoration. The Firth of Thames (FoT) in northern New Zealand once supported dense populations of green lipped mussels Perna canaliculus, which were extirpated by a dredge fishery in the mid-20th century. Efforts to restore these biogenic habitats are underway. The largest standing populations of this species in the area currently exist in aquaculture. This study aimed to determine if larval spill-over from aquaculture can provide a larval subsidy to bivalve reef restoration efforts in the FoT. We used a combination of trace elemental fingerprinting and biophysical modelling techniques to determine patterns of larval dispersal in the area. Results of both approaches indicated that the larval pool in the area is well mixed with larvae produced at aquaculture locations capable of settling throughout the study area. Overall this shows, for the first time, that larval spill-over from aquaculture may provide a subsidy to restoration efforts and assist with establishing sustainable populations. When determining restoration locations, the potential for aquaculture populations to act as a larval source should be explicitly considered. Conversely, when considering the location of new aquaculture sites, the consequences of larval spill-over to surrounding wild populations should be assessed. We recommend that restoration efforts and aquaculture be carefully integrated in a network approach which could provide both ecological and economic benefits.