Marine Ecology Progress Series
Changes to benthic infauna caused by scallop dredging at a site in Port Phillip Bay, southeastern Australia, were examined experimentally using a BACI (before, after, control, impact) design. The experimental dredging was undertaken by commercial fishermen and was typical of normal commercial operations in its spatial extent, intensity and duration. Changes to benthic community structure following dredging were monitored using grab samples taken on 3 occasions pre-dredging and 6 occasions post-dredging. The significance of changes was assessed using ANOVA for the more abundant species and, for pooled groups of species, Bray-Curtis community dissimilarities and multidimensional scaling (MDS). The abundance of 7 of the 10 most common species changed significantly (ANOVA p < 0.10) after dredging; 6 species decreased in abundance while 1 species increased. The size and persistence of dredging impacts varied between species, but most species decreased in abundance by 20 to 30%. Dredging impacts became undetectable for most species following their next recruitment. Most species recruited within 6 mo of the dredging impact, but a small number of species still had not recruited after 14 mo. These latter species appeared to cause a persistent change in community structure which was still detectable after 14 mo using Bray-Curtis dissimilarities. MDS ordination indicated that changes to community structure caused by dredging were smaller than those that occur between seasons and years.
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