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Aquaculture disturbance impacts the diet but not ecological linkages of a ubiquitous predatory fish

September 1, 2015

Aquaculture operations are a frequent and prominent cause of anthropogenic disturbance to marine and estuarine communities and may alter species composition and abundance. However, little is known about how such disturbances affect trophic linkages or ecosystem functions. In Puget Sound, Washington, aquaculture of the Pacific geoduck clam (Panopea generosa) is increasing and involves placing nets and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes in intertidal areas to protect juvenile geoducks from predators. Initial studies of the structured phase of the farming cycle have documented limited impacts on the abundance of some species. To examine the effect of geoduck aquaculture on ecological linkages, the trophic relationships of a local ubiquitous consumer, Pacific staghorn sculpin (Leptocottus armatus), to its invertebrate prey were compared between geoduck aquaculture sites and nearby reference areas with no aquaculture. Mark-recapture data indicated that sculpin exhibit local site fidelity to cultured and reference areas. The stomach contents of sculpin and stable isotope signatures of sculpin and their prey were examined to study the trophic ecology of cultured and reference areas. Results showed that the structured phase of geoduck aquaculture initiated some changes to staghorn sculpin ecology, as reflected in sculpin diet through stomach content analysis. However, carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes revealed that the general food web function of sculpin remained unchanged. The source of carbon at the base of the food web and the trophic position of sculpin were not impacted by geoduck aquaculture. The study has important implications for geoduck aquaculture management and will inform regulatory decisions related to shellfish aquaculture policy.

Publication Year 2015
Title Aquaculture disturbance impacts the diet but not ecological linkages of a ubiquitous predatory fish
DOI 10.1007/s12237-014-9909-z
Authors Kathleen C. McPeek, P. Sean McDonald, Glenn VanBlaricom
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70192966
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle