eCite Digital Repository

Aquaculture-derived trophic subsidy boosts populations of an ecosystem engineer


White, CA and Bannister, RJ and Dworjanyn, SA and Husa, V and Nichols, PD and Dempster, T, Aquaculture-derived trophic subsidy boosts populations of an ecosystem engineer, Aquaculture Environment Interactions, 10 pp. 279-289. ISSN 1869-7534 (2018) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2018 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.3354/aei00270


Environmental management of coastal aquaculture is focused on acute impacts of organic and nitrogenous wastes close to farms. However, the energy-rich trophic subsidy that aquaculture provides may create cascades with influences over broader spatial scales. In a fjord region with intensive fish farming, we tested whether an ecosystem engineer, the white urchin Gracilechinus acutus, was more abundant at aquaculture sites than control sites. Further, we tested whether diets influenced by aquaculture waste altered reproductive outputs compared with natural diets. Urchins formed barrens at aquaculture sites where they were 10 times more abundant (38 urchins m-2) than at control sites (4 urchins m-2). Urchins were on average 15 mm larger at control sites. In the laboratory, urchins fed aquafeed diets had 3 times larger gonad indices than urchins fed a natural diet. However, their reproduction was compromised. Eggs from females fed an aquafeed diet had 13% lower fertilisation success and 30% lower larval survival rates at 10 d compared with females fed a natural diet. A reproductive output model showed that enhanced numbers of 10 d old larvae produced by the dense aquaculture-associated aggregations of G. acutus will supersede any detrimental effects on reproduction, with larval outputs from aquaculture sites being on average 5 times greater than control sites. The results show that aquaculture waste can act as a trophic subsidy in fjord ecosystems, stimulating aggregations of urchins and promoting the formation of urchin barrens. Where finfish aquaculture is concentrated, combined effects on the wider environment may produce ecosystem-level consequences.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Aquaculture, Echinus acutus, Gracilechinus acutus, larval survival, Norway, population density, reproductive output, sea urchin, trophic subsidy, urchin barren
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:White, CA (Dr Camille White)
ID Code:127467
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2018-07-30
Last Modified:2018-08-13
Downloads:81 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page