, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 268-276
Date: 06 Oct 2005

Response of Benthic Protozoa and Thraustochytrid Protists to Fish Farm Impact in Seagrass (Posidonia oceanica ) and Soft-Bottom Sediments

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We investigated the impact of fish farm biodeposition on benthic bacteria, thraustochytrid protists, and heterotrophic protozoa (nanoflagellates and ciliates) in an oligotrophic area of the Mediterranean Sea. The fish farm impact was investigated both on a seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) bed and on soft bottom sediments. In both systems, sediment samples were collected with a multicontrol sampling strategy (i.e., beneath the fish farm and at three control sites per system). The uneaten food pellets supplied to the fish determined the accumulation of sediment organic matter and the enhancement of protein content in impacted sediments (both seagrass bed and soft sediments). In both systems, the abundance and biomass of heterotrophic protists increased significantly beneath the fish farm, but the structure of the protist assemblages responded differently in vegetated and unvegetated sediments. Thraustochytrid abundance increased significantly in impacted seagrass. These results provide evidence that the structure of protist assemblages respond significantly to fish farm biodeposition and indicate that the monitoring of these benthic components provides complementary information for the assessment of the fish farm impact on the benthic systems.