A survey was undertaken of the benthic communities found at ten stations that were sampled by Norman Holme in the 1950s. These stations were selected because Holme recorded the presence of large bivalve species ( Glycymeris glycymeris and Paphia rhomboides). Fauna with large body-size are known to be most susceptible to disturbance by human activity, so the presence or absence of these organisms might indicate whether such disturbance has increased at these sites since the 1950s. As expected, differences were detected in the community composition between sites that were located in deeper or shallower water. These differences were consistent for the communities sampled in the present study and for those sampled by Holme. The brittlestar Ophiothrix fragilis was highly abundant at only one site. Nevertheless, long-lived bivalve species still occurred at most of the sites sampled in 1998. G. glycymeris was absent from two sites sampled in 1998 and P. rhomboides was absent from only one site in 1998. Holme suggested that his reported decline in the abundance of O. fragilis might be attributed to the increase in bottom fishing in the English Channel. However, the continued presence of long-lived bivalves at most sites would suggest that other factors could be responsible. A comparison of bivalve and echinoderm species that occurred in the 1950s and in 1998 indicated the occurrence of relatively large temporal changes, as might be expected over a period of more than 40 years. However, this occurred at eight of the ten sites. At two sites, the spatial variation was quantitatively similar to the temporal variation. This suggests that areas of the sea bed exist that have a similar community composition to those found prior to the general increase in bottom-fishing disturbance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science