Aquaculture is growing rapidly in response to an increasing demand for protein and the over-exploitation of wild fisheries. Mussel (family Mytilidae) production has doubled over the last decade and currently stands at 1.5 million tonnes production per annum. Mussels produce organic biodeposits which are dispersed around the production site and, potentially, impact the receiving environment in a number of inter-linked ways. The reported benthic impacts that occur, primarily through the accumulation of these biodeposits and associated organic enrichment, vary widely between studies. The objectives of this research were to determine the nature of the relationship between sediment redox (a proxy for oxygenation) and farm-proximity and covariables whilst accounting for, and quantifying, differences in redox between sites. Sediment cores (N¿¿¿=¿¿¿159) were taken remotely around a random sample of mussel farms, redox was measured at 10 mm sediment depth and linked to farm-distance and sediment organic/shell content and particle size, using an additive, mixed, weighted regression model. Redox varied considerably between sites and there was a highly significant reduction (50 mV) in redox adjacent to the mussel lines. Redox increased non-linearly with distance, rising rapidly at >7 m from the farm edge. The modest reduction in sediment oxygenation in close proximity to mussel farms reported here suggests that farms located over sediments characterised by pre-existing oxygen stress are likely to exacerbate benthic species impoverishment associated with reducing sedimentary conditions whilst those located over highly oxygenated sediments are likely to increase benthic productivity.
|Publication status||Published - 2012|