Benthic input rates predict seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) fish farm-induced decline

Elena Díaz-Almela*, Núria Marbà, Elvira Álvarez, Rocío Santiago, Marianne Holmer, Antoni Grau, Simone Mirto, Roberto Danovaro, Anthony Petrou, Marina Argyrou, Ioannis Karakassis, Carlos Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Fish farms represent a growing source of anthropogenic disturbance to benthic communities, and efficient predictors of such impacts are urgently needed. We explored the effects of fish farm benthic organic and nutrient inputs on the population dynamics of a key seagrass species (Posidonia oceanica) in four Mediterranean deep meadows adjacent to sea bream and sea bass farms. We performed two annual plant censuses on permanent plots at increasing distance from farms and measured benthic sedimentation rates around plots. High shoot mortality rates were recorded near the cages, up to 20 times greater than at control sites. Recruitment rates increased in variability but could not compensate mortality, leading to rapid seagrass decline within the first 100 m from cages. Seagrass mortality increased with total sedimentation rates (K = 0.55, p < 0.0002), and with organic matter (K = 0.50, p = 0.001), total nitrogen (K = 0.46, p = 0.002) and total phosphorus (K = 0.56, p < 3 · 10-5) inputs. P. oceanica decline accelerated above a phosphorus loading threshold of 50 mg m-2 day-1. Phosphorus benthic sedimentation rate seems a powerful predictor of seagrass mortality from fish farming. Coupling direct measurements of benthic sedimentation rates with dynamics of key benthic species is proposed as an efficient strategy to predict fish farm impacts to benthic communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1332-1342
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008


  • Aquaculture
  • Benthic inputs
  • Conservation
  • Organic loading
  • P loading
  • Population dynamics
  • Seagrass
  • Thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography
  • Pollution


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