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Impact on demersal fish of a large-scale and deep sand extraction site with ecosystem-based landscaped sandbars
de Jong , M.F.; Baptist, M.J.; van Hal, R.; De Boois, I.J.; Lindeboom, H.J.; Hoekstra, P. (2014). Impact on demersal fish of a large-scale and deep sand extraction site with ecosystem-based landscaped sandbars. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 146: 83-94. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1016/j.ecss.2014.05.029
In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0272-7714; e-ISSN 1096-0015, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
Author keywords
    infauna; epifauna; sediment; ground fish; sand mining

Authors  Top 
  • de Jong, M.F.
  • Baptist, M.J., more
  • van Hal, R.
  • De Boois, I.J., more
  • Lindeboom, H.J., more
  • Hoekstra, P.

Abstract
    For the seaward harbour extension of the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, approximately 220 million m3 sand was extracted between 2009 and 2013. In order to decrease the surface area of direct impact, the authorities permitted deep sand extraction, down to 20 m below the seabed. Biological and physical impacts of large-scale and deep sand extraction are still being investigated and largely unknown. For this reason, we investigated the colonization of demersal fish in a deep sand extraction site. Two sandbars were artificially created by selective dredging, copying naturally occurring meso-scale bedforms to increase habitat heterogeneity and increasing post-dredging benthic and demersal fish species richness and biomass. Significant differences in demersal fish species assemblages in the sand extraction site were associated with variables such as water depth, median grain size, fraction of very fine sand, biomass of white furrow shell (Abra alba) and time after the cessation of sand extraction. Large quantities of undigested crushed white furrow shell fragments were found in all stomachs and intestines of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), indicating that it is an important prey item. One and two years after cessation, a significant 20-fold increase in demersal fish biomass was observed in deep parts of the extraction site. In the troughs of a landscaped sandbar however, a significant drop in biomass down to reference levels and a significant change in species assemblage was observed two years after cessation. The fish assemblage at the crests of the sandbars differed significantly from the troughs with tub gurnard (Chelidonichthys lucerna) being a Dufrêne-Legendre indicator species of the crests. This is a first indication of the applicability of landscaping techniques to induce heterogeneity of the seabed although it remains difficult to draw a strong conclusion due the lack of replication in the experiment. A new ecological equilibrium is not reached after 2 years since biotic and abiotic variables are still adapting. To understand the final impact of deep and large-scale sand extraction on demersal fish, we recommend monitoring for a longer period, at least for a period of six years or even longer.

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