Intertidal clam harvesting: Benthic community change and recovery

B. E. Spencer, M. J. Kaiser*, D. B. Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanical harvesting of intertidal bivalve molluscs inevitably leads to the physical disturbance of the substratum and its associated fauna. Hence, it is necessary to consider the consequences of such activities for the requirements of other species (e.g. fish and birds) which utilize these areas. The present study reports a long-term experiment that studied the effects of Manila clam, Tapes philippinarum Adams and Reeve, cultivation on an estuarine benthic habitat and its fauna. The study began with the initial seeding of the clams, and continued through ongrowing, and finally, harvesting 30 months later. Earlier observations revealed that plots covered with netting elevated sedimentation rate, and hence, encouraged the proliferation of certain depositfeeding worm species which persisted throughout the cultivation cycle until harvesting took place. The immediate effects of harvesting by suction dredging caused a reduction of infaunal species and their abundance by ≃80%. Recovery of the sediment structure and the invertebrate infaunal communities, judged by similarity to the control plots on both the harvested and unharvested but originally netted plots, had occurred 12 months after harvesting. Comparisons with other similar studies demonstrate that, in general, suction harvesting causes large short-term changes to the intertidal habitat. The rate at which recolonization occurs and sediment structure is restored varies according to local hydrography, exposure to natural physical disturbance and sediment stability. The management of clam farming procedures and other forms of mechanical harvesting should incorporate a consideration of site selection, rotational seeding, cultivation and harvesting to create fallow areas, and seasonal harvesting to ameliorate the recovery of sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalAquaculture Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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