Mechanical clam dredging in Venice lagoon: ecosystem effects evaluated with a trophic mass-balance model
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- Pranovi, F., Libralato, S., Raicevich, S. et al. Marine Biology (2003) 143: 393. doi:10.1007/s00227-003-1072-1
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Harvesting of the invasive Manila clam, Tapes philippinarum, is the main exploitative activity in the Venice lagoon, but the mechanical dredges used in this free-access regime produce a considerable disturbance of the lagoon ecosystem. An ecosystem approach to study the complex effects of clam harvesting was implemented using a trophic mass-balance model. The trophic relations in the ecosystem were quantified with a mixed trophic impact analysis and further evaluated by considering different explanations for the "Tapes paradox", which consists of the apparent population enhancement of Manila clams by dredging and the apparent nutritional advantages that this species receives from re-suspended organic matter. The key-role played by this introduced species is highlighted by a network analysis that indicates a "wasp-waist control" of the system by Manila clams. The model constructed to characterise the present state of the Venice lagoon ecosystem is compared with models produced for a reconstructed past lagoon and a projected future lagoon. The future model was obtained by simulating the elimination of clam dredging in 10 years. The three different models were compared using thermodynamic and informational indices. Simulating the elimination of clam dredging produced a 33% increase in artisanal fishery catches, carried out by means of static gears, even with no change in fishing effort. These simulations also forecast an increase in the mean trophic level of the artisanal fishery catches as a positive effect of eliminating mechanical clam harvesting.