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Forskningsartikel2024Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Effects of bottom trawling and environmental factors on benthic bacteria, meiofauna and macrofauna communities and benthic ecosystem processes

Bradshaw, Clare; Iburg, Sven; Morys, Claudia; Skold, Mattias; Pusceddu, Antonio; Ennas, Claudia; Jonsson, Patrik; Nascimento, Francisco J. A.


Soft sediment marine benthic ecosystems comprise a diverse community of bacteria, meiofauna and macrofauna, which together support a range of ecosystem processes such as biogeochemical cycling. These ecosystems are also fishing grounds for demersal species that are often caught using bottom trawling. This fishing method can have deleterious effects on benthic communities by causing injury or mortality, and through alteration of sediment properties that in turn influence community structure. Although the impacts of bottom trawling on macrofauna are relatively well studied, less is known about the responses of meiofauna and bacteria to such disturbances, or how bottom trawling impacts benthic ecosystem processes. Quantifying trawling impacts against a background of natural environmental variability is also a challenge. To address these questions, we examined effects of bottom trawling and a range of environmental variables (e. g. water chemistry and physical and biochemical surface sediment properties) on a) bacterial, meiofaunal and macrofaunal community structure and b) benthic ecosystem processes (nutrient fluxes, extracellular enzyme activities and carbon turnover and degradation rates). We also investigated the link between the benthic macrofauna community and the same ecosystem processes. While there was a significant effect of bottom trawling intensity on macrofaunal community structure, the same was not seen for bacterial or meiofaunal community composition, which were more affected by environmental factors, such as surface sediment properties. The labile component of the surface sediment carbon pool was higher at highly trawled sites. Carbon degradation rates, extracellular enzyme activities, oxygen fluxes and some nutrient fluxes were significantly affected by trawling, but ecosystem processes were also strongly linked to the abundance of key bioturbators (Macoma balthica, Halicryptus spinulosus, Scoloplos armiger and Pontoporeia femorata). Although benthic ecosystems were affected by a combination of trawling and natural variability, disentangling these showed that the anthropogenic effects were clearest on the larger component of the community, i.e. macrofauna composition, and on ecosystem processes related to sedimentary carbon.


Demersal fishing; Physical disturbance; Benthos; Ecosystem function; Baltic Sea; Carbon

Publicerad i

Science of the Total Environment
2024, Volym: 921, artikelnummer: 171076
Utgivare: ELSEVIER