Significance of bottom-fishing disturbance

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Abstract

Since the early 1970s there has been increasing interest in the ecological effects of bottom-fishing activities on the benthic ecology of the seas of northern Europe. The majority of studies have examined the short-term effects of disturbance on benthic fauna. Some areas, however, such as the southern North Sea, have been subjected to fishing disturbance for over 50 years, which complicates predictions of long-term ecological change inferred from recent experimental studies. I highlight the importance of evaluating the ecological relevance of fishing disturbance versus natural perturbations, which varies among different habitats. Most experimental studies have shown that it is possible to detect short-term changes in community structure in response to fishing disturbance. Evidence suggests that long-term changes are probably restricted to long-lived fragile species or communities found in environments that are infrequently disturbed by natural phenomena. Understanding the relative ecological importance of physical disturbance by fishing versus natural events would provide a basis for predicting the outcome of fishing activities in different marine habitats. I suggest approaches that may refine attempts to correlate fishing intensity and frequency with community change, such as the use of tracking devices fitted to trawlers and surveys of fauna, such as bivalves and echinoderms, that record disturbance events of the past in their shells or body structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1230-1235
Number of pages6
JournalConservation Biology
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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