The interaction between shellfish culture and ecosystem processes

A. Smaal, M. van Stralen, E. Schuiling

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    53 Citations (Scopus)


    The carrying capacity of the Oosterschelde ecosystem for the production of mussels (Mytilus edulis) was evaluated before and after completion of a large-scale coastal engineering project in 1987. This project caused hydrodynamic and water-quality changes; hence, phytoplankton-species composition changed and phytoplankton turnover increased, but primary production remained the same. In the prebarrier period (1980-1986), condition of mussels showed a significant negative correlation with the annual shellfish standing stock and a significant positive correlation with the annual primary production. The system was exploited at maximum capacity. In the postbarrier period (1987-1997), the significant correlation between mussel condition and primary production remained, but there was no longer a negative correlation between standing stock and condition. This indicates overstocking, but yields were maintained. This was explained by (i) feedbacks of the mussels in the Oosterschelde ecosystem - through their large filtration and nitrogen-regeneration capacity, increased phytoplankton turnover was induced; and (ii) adaptation to the new conditions by the shellfish farmers in their management of the mussel stocks. It was concluded that feedbacks by filter feeders and farmers have to be addressed in estimating the exploitation capacity of ecosystems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)991-1002
    JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

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