A short-term experiment to assess the ecological impact of a hydraulic blade dredge on a maerl community was carried out during November 2001 in the Clyde Sea area on the west coast of Scotland. A fluorescent sediment tracer was used to label dead maerl, which was then spread out on the surface of sediment to act as a proxy for living maerl. The fauna collected by the dredge was dominated by the bivalves Dosinia exoleta and Tapes rhomboides, which were found to be intact. The target razor clams Ensis spp. were caught in low numbers, which reflected the low abundance of this genus within the maerl habitat. The hydraulic dredge removed, dispersed and buried the fluorescent maerl at a rate of 5.2 kgm2 and suspended a large cloud of sediment into the water column, which settled out and blanketed the seabed to a distance of at least 8m either side of the dredge track. The likely ecological consequences of hydraulic dredging on maerl grounds are discussed, and a case is made for protecting all maerl grounds from hydraulic dredging and establishing them as reservoirs to allow for the recruitment of commercial bivalve populations at adjacent fished sites
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