Cumulative impacts of seabed trawl disturbance on benthic biomass, production, and species richness in different habitats

Jan G. Hiddink, Simon Jennings, M. J. Kaiser, A. M. Queirós, D. E. Duplisea, G. J. Piet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Citations (Scopus)


Bottom trawling causes widespread disturbance of sediments in shelf seas and can have a negative impact on benthic fauna. We conducted a large-scale assessment of bottom trawl fishing of benthic fauna in different habitats, using a theoretical, size-based model that included habitat features. Species richness was estimated based on a generalized body mass versus species richness relationship. The model was validated by sampling 33 stations subject to a range of trawling intensities in four shallow, soft sediment areas in the North Sea. Both the model and the field data demonstrated that trawling reduced biomass, production, and species richness. The impacts of trawling were greatest in areas with low levels of natural disturbance, while the impact of trawling was small in areas with high rates of natural disturbance. For the North Sea, the model showed that the bottom trawl fleet reduced benthic biomass and production by 56% and 21%, respectively, compared with an unfished situation. Because of the many simplifications and assumptions required to synthesize these data, additional work is required to refine the model and evaluate applicability in other geographic areas. Our model enables managers to understand the consequences of altering the distribution of fishing activities on benthic production and hence on food web processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-736
Number of pages16
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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