Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Long-term effects of a toxic algal bloom on subtidal soft-sediment macroinvertebrate communities in Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. Technical Report

Kroger, K., Gardner, J.P.A., Rowden, A.A. and Wear, R.G.
Journal / Source
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Toxic marine phytoplankton, benthic communities, macroinvertebrates, Wellington Harbour, multivariate analysis, hydrodynamics, recovery, algae, seaweeds, bloom, soft substrate, subtidal, shellfish
The long-term effects (>1 year) of a naturally occurring toxic plankton bloom (Karenia brevisulcata) on subtidal benthic macroinvertebrate communities were investigated in Wellington Harbour, a semi-enclosed temperate embayment in New Zealand. For 3 years communities were sampled at three different sites in the harbour. Analyses revealed that community recovery following the bloom was site-specific. Multivariate analyses indicated that at one site community composition was approaching recovery 3 years post-bloom. At the second site, a sequential recovery process was indicated, whereas at the third site the community composition oscillated from year to year, but did not show any signs of a sequential recovery process. The nature of the hydrodynamic regime was identified as a major factor influencing the observed recovery processes. Communities exposed to an active hydrodynamic regime were less affected by the bloom and differed little in their composition pre- and post-bloom, as they were naturally in a perpetual state of recovery as indicated by a dominance of r-selected species. The community at the hydrodynamically less active site was more affected by the bloom and exhibited temporal differences in composition consistent with successional models. Complete recovery to a pre-disturbance climax community dominated by K-selected species is likely to take 4*5 years, if not interrupted by other disturbances. Given the increased occurrence of harmful algal blooms worldwide, more monitoring and manipulative studies are needed to further evaluate the effects of such disturbances on macrobenthic communities.
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