Large-scale responses of nematode communities to chronic otter-trawl disturbance

Hilmar Hinz*, Jan G. Hiddink, James Forde, Michel J. Kaiser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Nematodes, because of their small size and short life cycles, are thought to be less affected by direct trawling mortality compared with the larger macrofauna. However, nematodes may still be indirectly affected by the physical disturbance of trawling through changing sediment characteristics and food web structure. We determined whether nematode communities on two muddy fishing grounds located in the North Sea and Irish Sea were affected by chronic otter-trawl disturbance and quantified these effects. Nematode abundance, production, and genus richness declined in response to trawling within both areas. Nematode biomass did not respond to trawling intensity. Genus composition was affected by trawling only in the North Sea. The responses in abundance of individual nematode genera to increasing trawling intensity were negative as well as positive. These results indicate that despite their size and fast life cycle, nematodes are affected by intensive trawling on muddy fishing grounds. The loss in secondary production from nematodes can have far-reaching consequences for the integrity of the benthic food web. As bottom trawl fisheries are expanding into ever deeper muddy habitats, the results presented here are an important step towards understanding the global ecosystem effects of bottom trawling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-732
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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