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The interaction between shellfish culture and ecosystem processes

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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.

Le stock limite de la production de moules (Mytilus edulis) de l'écosystème d'Oosterschelde a été évalué avant et après la réalisation d'un ouvrage côtier d'ingénierie de grande envergure en 1987. La projet a entraîné des changements dans l'hydrodynamique et dans la qualité de l'eau; la composition spécifique du phytoplancton s'est donc modifiée, le taux de remplacement du phytoplancton a augmenté, mais la production primaire est restée la même. Avant la présence de l'ouvrage (1980–1986), la condition des moules affichait une corrélation négative significative avec la densité annuelle des mollusques et une corrélation positive significative avec la production primaire annuelle. Le système était alors exploité à sa capacité maximale. Après l'installation de l'ouvrage (1987–1997), il y avait encore une corrélation significative entre la condition des moules et la production primaire, mais il n'y avait plus de corrélation négative entre la densité et la condition. Cela indique une densité excessive, mais les rendements se sont maintenus. Une telle condition s'explique par (i) des rétroactions des moules dans l'écosystème d'Oosterschelde qui, à cause de leur grand potentiel de filtration et de régénération de l'azote, peuvent générer un taux plus élevé de renouvellement du phytoplancton, ainsi que par (ii) l'adaptation des éleveurs de mollusques aux conditions nouvelles dans leur gestion des stocks de moules. En conclusion, il faut tenir compte des rétroactions des organismes filtreurs et des éleveurs lorsqu'on veut estimer le potentiel d'exploitation d'un écosystème.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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