A Box Model for Ecosystem-Level Management of Mussel Culture Carrying Capacity in a Coastal Bay
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The carrying capacity of shellfish aquaculture is determined by the interaction of cultured species with the ecosystem, particularly food availability to suspension feeders. A multiple box dynamic ecosystem model was constructed to examine the carrying capacity for mussel (Mytilus edulis) aquaculture in Tracadie Bay, Prince of Edward Island, Canada. Criteria for carrying capacity were based on chlorophyll concentration. The model was run in two different years (1998 and 1999) in which time series for three points inside the bay and a point outside the bay were available. This data set allows spatial validation of the ecosystem model and assessment of its sensitivity to changes in boundary conditions. The model validation process indicated that the differential equations and parameters used in the simulation provided robust prediction of the ecological dynamics within the bay. Results verified that mussel biomass exerts top-down control of phytoplankton populations. The model indicates that conditions observed during 1999 are more sensitive to grazing pressure from aquaculture than was observed during 1998, highlighting the importance of inter-annual variability in carrying capacity of the bay. This result is important from a management perspective because it emphasizes application of a precautionary policy and prediction in regulation of aquaculture activity in the bay. Retrospective scenarios showed that although the bay could yield greater mussel biomass production, stress on the environment would lead the ecosystem outside of its natural range of variation. Despite the spatial simplicity employed in the present model, it provides substantial management capability as well as an ecosystem-oriented approach to shellfish aquaculture.
Keywordsecosystem model ecosystem management shellfish aquaculture carrying capacity phytoplankton depletion
This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and a Fundación Juana de Vega fellowship to R.F.
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