The factors affecting patterns of benthic [seabed] biology and chemistry around 50 Scottish fish farms were investigated using linear mixed-effects models that account for inherent correlations between observations from the same farm. The abundance of benthic macrofauna and sediment concentrations of organic carbon were both influenced by a significant, albeit weak, interaction between farm size, defined as the maximum weight of fish permitted on site at any one time, and current speed. Above a farm size threshold of between 800 and 1000 t, the magnitude of effects at farms located in areas of elevated current speeds were greater than at equivalent farms located in more quiescent waters. Sediment concentrations of total organic matter were influenced by an interaction between distance and depth, indicating that wind-driven resuspension events may help reduce the accumulation of organic waste at farms located in shallow waters. The analyses presented here demonstrate that the production and subsequent fate of organic waste at fish farms is more complex than is often assumed; in isolation, current speed, water depth, and farm size are not necessarily good predictors of benthic impact.
- organic enrichment
- salmon farm