Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 October 2014
Sea-cage fish farms impact the seabed within their immediate vicinity, potentially affecting recipient communities. We assessed whether proximity to three sea-cage fish farms at the Canary Islands altered patterns in the abundance, assemblage structure and richness of soft-bottom macrofauna. We related among-farm variability in dissimilarities in macrofaunal assemblage structure between seabeds beneath cages and controls to differences in hydrodynamics, production and seabed topography. Contrasting patterns of species abundances with varying proximity to fish farms were observed: some species decreased while other species increased their abundances with increasing distance at some farms. Although faunal assemblages at 0 m (i.e. beneath the cages) were different, in terms of assemblage structure, from those found at controls, pairwise differences in assemblage structure among distances away varied among the studied fish farms. Species richness showed inconsistent patterns with proximity to cages among fish farms. In summary, inconsistent patterns of macrofaunal assemblages with varying proximity to aquaculture facilities preclude confident predictions on the way offshore aquaculture alters macrofauna in the study region.
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