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Vanishing clams on an Iberian beach: local consequences and global implications of accelerating loss of shells to tourism
Kowalewski, M.; Domènech, R.; Martinell, J. (2014). Vanishing clams on an Iberian beach: local consequences and global implications of accelerating loss of shells to tourism. PLoS One 9(1): e83615. hdl.handle.net/10.1371/journal.pone.0083615
In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
Author keywords
    Beaches Bivalves Ecosystems Fisheries Habitats Marine fish Shores Waves

Authors  Top 
  • Kowalewski, M.
  • Domènech, R.
  • Martinell, J.

Abstract
    Multi-decadal increase in shell removal by tourists, a process that may accelerate degradation of natural habitats, was quantified via two series of monthly surveys, conducted thirty years apart (1978–1981 and 2008–2010) in one small embayment on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the last three decades, the local tourist arrivals have increased almost three-fold (2.74), while the area has remained unaffected by urban encroachment and commercial fisheries. During the same time interval the abundance of mollusk shells along the shoreline decreased by a comparable factor (2.62) and was significantly and negatively correlated with tourist arrivals (r = -0.52). The strength of the correlation increased when data were restricted to months with high tourist arrivals (r = -0.72). In contrast, the maximum monthly wave energy (an indirect proxy for changes in rate of onshore shell transport) was not significantly correlated with shell abundance (r = 0.10). Similarly, rank dominance of common species, drilling predation intensity, and body size-frequency distribution patterns have all remained stable over recent decades. A four-fold increase in global tourist arrivals over the last 30 years may have induced a comparable worldwide acceleration in shell removal from marine shorelines, resulting in multiple, currently unquantifiable, habitat changes such as increased beach erosion, changes in calcium carbonate recycling, and declines in diversity and abundance of organisms, which are dependent on shell availability.

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