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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Evaluating impacts of bottom trawling and hypoxia on benthic communities at the local, habitat, and regional scale using a modelling approach

van Denderen, P. D.; Bolam, S. G.; Friedland, R.; Hiddink, J. G.; Noren, K.; Rijnsdorp, A. D.; Skold, M.; Tornroos, A.; Virtanen, E. A.; Valanko, S.


Bottom trawling disturbance and hypoxia are affecting marine benthic habitats worldwide. We present an approach to predict their effects on benthic communities, and use the approach to estimate the state, the biomass relative to carrying capacity, of the Baltic Sea at the local, habitat, and regional scale. Responses to both pressures are expected to depend on the longevity of fauna, which is predicted from benthic data from 1558 locations. We find that communities in low-salinity regions mostly consist of short-lived species, which are, in our model, more resilient than those of the saline areas. The model predicts that in 14% of the Baltic Sea region benthic biomass is reduced by at least 50%, whereas an additional 8% of the region has reductions of 10-50%. The effects of hypoxia occur over larger spatial scales and lead to a low state of especially deep habitats. The approach is based on a simple characterization of the benthic community, which comes with high uncertainty, but allows for the identification of benthic habitats that are at greatest risk and prioritization of management actions at the regional scale. This information supports the development of sustainable approaches to manage impact of human activities on benthic ecosystems.


benthic fauna; bottom fishing; ecosystem-based management; human pressures; impact assessment; oxygen deficiency; seabed disturbance

Published in

ICES Journal of Marine Science
2020, Volume: 77, number: 1, pages: 278-289