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Cullain N, McIver R, Schmidt AL, Milewski I, Lotze HK.2018. Impacts of organic enrichment from finfish aquaculture on seagrass beds and associated macroinfaunal communities in Atlantic Canada. PeerJ Preprints6:e26832v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.26832v1
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds provide important habitat and food sources for a wide range of associated species both above- and belowground. Organic enrichment and nutrient loading from anthropogenic sources can change eelgrass canopy structure and macroinfauna community composition, making them important indicators of ecosystem health. In Atlantic Canada, there is growing concern about the impacts of finfish aquaculture on eelgrass habitats. To quantify these effects, we examined differences in environmental parameters, eelgrass bed structure and macroinfauna communities at increasing distances from a finfish farm in Port Mouton Bay, Nova Scotia and a reference site in an adjacent bay. We also compared the results to recently published large-scale survey results from the Atlantic coast. Results indicate increased organic enrichment and decreased eelgrass biomass, shoot density, and macroinfauna biomass closer to the farm. Moreover, community structure significantly differed between sites with some sensitive species disappearing while tolerant species increased closer to the farm. Changes in the macroinfauna community could be linked to observed differences in environmental and eelgrass bed variables. Our results provide new insights into the impacts of finfish aquaculture on eelgrass habitats in Atlantic Canada. We discuss possible assessment and monitoring metrics that would enable managers and regulators to evaluate the risk and potential changes to eelgrass habitat as a result of finfish aquaculture.
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Raw infauna, eelgrass, and environmental data from Port Mouton bay