, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 127-136

Effects of mussel aquaculture on the nitrogen cycle and benthic communities in Kenepuru Sound, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

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Abstract

Nitrogen pools and transformations and benthic communities at a Perna canaliculus farm and a nearby reference site without direct influence of marine farming in Kenepuru Sound, New Zealand, were compared on four dates between September 1982 and May 1983. The organic nitrogen pool in the top 12 cm sediment was 7.4 to 10.8 mol m-2 at the mussel farm and 6.1 to 8.9 mol m-2 at the reference site. The nitrate and nitrite pools were similar in both sediments, but the ammonium pool in the mussel farm sediment was about twice as high as in the reference sediment. In January, the sediment ammonium concentrations ranged from 418 nmol cm-3 (surface) to 149 nmol cm-3 (12 cm depth) at the mussel farm and from 86 to 112 nmol cm-3 at the reference site. The molar C:N ratio of the sediment organic matter was 6.2 to 7.2 at the mussel farm and 7.9 to 10.0 at the reference site. The molar N:P ratio of the sediment organic matter was 4.3 to 7.2 and 3.3 to 6.1 at mussel farm and reference site, respectively. The total nitrogen mineralisation rate in the top 12 cm sediment ranged from 21.7 to 37.1 mmol m-2 d-1 at the mussel farm and from 8.5 to 25.0 mmol m-2 d-1 at the reference site. Ammonium excretion by mussels was about 4.7% (January) and 7.4% (May) of the combined nitrogen mineralisation by mussels and sediment. The sediment-denitrification rate was 0.7 to 6.1 mmol m-2 d-1 at the mussel farm and 0.1 to 0.9 mmol m-2 d-1 at the reference site. In January, 76 and 93% of the nitrate reduced in the sediments were denitrified at the mussel farm and reference site, respectively. The denitrification rate on the mussel lines (determined on detritus-covered mussels) was twice the mussel farm sediment-denitrification rate and 10 times the reference sediment-denitrification rate. Total denitrification at the mussel farm was 21% higher than at the reference site. The loss of nitrogen through mussel harvest and denitrification was 68% higher at the mussel farm. The surface layers of both sediments contained about 75 mg m-2 chlorophyll a. Sediment phaeophytin levels were 52 mg m-2 at the reference site and 137 mg m-2 at the mussel farm. While the benthic infauna of the mussel-farm sediment consisted only of polychaete worms, the reference sediment contained also bivalve molluscs, brittle stars and crustaceans.

Communicated by G. F. Humphrey, Sydney