Oyster (Ostrea edulis) extirpation and ecosystem transformation in the Firth of Forth, Scotland

Thurstan, Ruth H., Hawkins, Julie P., Raby, Lee and Roberts, Callum M. (2013) Oyster (Ostrea edulis) extirpation and ecosystem transformation in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Journal for Nature Conservation, 21 5: 253-261. doi:10.1016/j.jnc.2013.01.004


Author Thurstan, Ruth H.
Hawkins, Julie P.
Raby, Lee
Roberts, Callum M.
Title Oyster (Ostrea edulis) extirpation and ecosystem transformation in the Firth of Forth, Scotland
Formatted title
Oyster (Ostrea edulis) extirpation and ecosystem transformation in the Firth of Forth, Scotland
Journal name Journal for Nature Conservation   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1617-1381
Publication date 2013-10
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jnc.2013.01.004
Volume 21
Issue 5
Start page 253
End page 261
Total pages 9
Place of publication Jena, Germany
Publisher Urban und Fischer Verlag
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Marine inshore communities, including biogenic habitats have undergone dramatic changes as a resultof exploitation, pollution, land-use changes and introduced species. The Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland was once home to the most important oyster (Ostrea edulis Linnaeus, 1758) beds in Scotland.19th and early 20th century fisheries scientists documented the degradation and loss of these beds, yet transformation of the wider benthic community has been little studied. We undertook archival searches,ecological surveys and shell community analysis using radioisotope dated sediment cores to investigatethe history of decline of Forth oyster beds over the last 200 years and the changes to its wider biolog-ical communities. Quadrat analysis of the present day benthos reveal that soft-sediment communities dominate the Firth of Forth, with little remaining evidence of past oyster beds in places where abundantshell remains were picked up by a survey undertaken in 1895. Queen scallops (Aequipecten opercularis Linnaeus, 1758) and horse mussels (Modiolus modiolus Linnaeus, 1758) were once common within theForth but have also markedly decreased compared to the earlier survey. Our analyses of shell remains suggest that overall mollusc biomass and species richness declined throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, suggesting broader-scale community change as human impacts increased and as habitats degraded. Inshore communities in the Firth of Forth today are less productive and less diverse compared to past states, with evidence suggesting that most of the damage was done by early bottom trawling and dredging activities. Given the pervasive nature of intensive trawling over the past 150 years, the kind of degradation we document for the Firth of Forth is likely to be commonplace within UK inshore communities
Keyword Benthic communities
Bottom trawling
Historical ecology
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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