Journal Article

Immediate impacts and recovery trajectories of macrofaunal communities following hydraulic clam dredging on Banquereau, eastern Canada

Kent D. Gilkinson, Donald C. Gordon, Kevin G. MacIsaac, David L. McKeown, Ellen L.R. Kenchington, Cynthia Bourbonnais and W. Peter Vass

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 62, issue 5, pages 925-947
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Immediate impacts and recovery trajectories of macrofaunal communities following hydraulic clam dredging on Banquereau, eastern Canada

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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A hydraulic clam dredging experiment, designed to mimic offshore commercial dredging practices, was carried out at a depth of approximately 70 m on a sandy seabed on Banquereau, on the Scotian Shelf, eastern Canada. The experiment was designed to study the separate and combined effects of dredging through three treatment boxes (Dredging Only, Dredging and Discarding, Discarding Only) and two spatially separated reference boxes. In all, 270 taxa were identified from grab samples. Of these, four bivalves are targeted in the commercial fishery (Arctica islandica, Cyrtodaria siliqua, Mactromeris polynyma, and Serripes groenlandicus) while 266 taxa were non-target species. Sample biomass was dominated by the propellerclam, C. siliqua, and the echinoderm, Echinarachnius parma, while the polychaete, Spiophanes bombyx, was the numerical dominant. The dredges captured 33 invertebrate and two fish taxa, although >80% of the catch biomass comprised propellerclams and echinoderms. Immediately after dredging, most macrofaunal species decreased in abundance, with the greatest declines inside dredge furrows (which covered 53–68% of the area inside the dredged boxes). Large numbers of propellerclams were excavated to the seabed surface, with a large proportion showing massive damage. There were few signs of discards on the sediment surface. Recovery trajectories of target and non-target species were followed for 2 years. Following initial declines in abundance and biomass of most taxa immediately after dredging, there were marked increases in abundance of polychaetes and amphipods after 1 year. Two years after dredging, abundances of opportunistic species were generally elevated by ≫100% relative to pre-dredging levels. Two years after dredging, average taxonomic distinctness had decreased (i.e. taxonomic relatedness between species had increased) due, in part, to increased numbers of species of certain polychaetes and amphipods, while communities had become numerically dominated (50–70%) by S. bombyx. It is concluded that the disturbed community was still in the colonizing phase 2 years after dredging. The mobile brittlestar, Ophiura sarsi, displayed increases in abundance ranging from 200% to 300% in the dredged and reference boxes over the 2-year post-dredging. A similar response of non-target macrofauna in the reference boxes suggests, possibly, a coincident natural recruitment pulse. Dredging resulted in pronounced, sustained reductions in biomass (up to 67%) of the target bivalves with no signs of recovery after 2 years. Recruitment of target bivalves (>1-mm shell length) was very low throughout the experimental area during this interval.

Keywords: benthos; hydraulic clam dredging; impacts; offshore; recovery trajectories

Journal Article.  12195 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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