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Benthic microbial indicators of fish farm impact in a coastal area of the Tyrrhenian Sea

  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2004
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
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We studied the impact of organic loads due to the biodeposition of a fish farm in a nonimpacted coastal area of the Tyrrhenian Sea (Western Mediterranean). Sediment chemistry and benthic microbial community were investigated from July 1997 to February 1998 on monthly basis at two stations: one was located under the fish farm, while the second was about 1 km away, and served as a reference site. The presence of the cage induced rapid changes in the benthic conditions: the sediments were rapidly (after 6 weeks) reduced. A significant accumulation of biopolymeric carbon was observed beneath the cage both 2 weeks after the initial cage deployment, on non-impacted sediments, and 5–7 months after, and appeared to be related to the fish farm production cycle. The density of microbial communities beneath the fish farm increased only during the first month of farming activity (July) and partially 7 months after cage disposal (i.e. in January), when there was a significant sediment organic enrichment. Additional evidence of rapid impact of the fish farm on the benthic bacterial communities is provided by the increase in the numbers of autofluorescent microbial cells. The photosynthetic eukaryotic cells displayed a highly reduced contribution to total autofluorescent microbial density, indicating that their decrease is related with biopolymeric carbon accumulation, and probably was due also to ‘‘shadow effect’’ induced by suspended material, coming from the fish farm, on the environment below. We propose here, to apply the ratio of culturable heterotrophic bacteria to microbial direct counts (CFU/MDC) to detect fish farm impact. In cage sediments, organic enrichment and the consequent modification of the characteristics of the benthic environment, determined an increase in aerobic heterotrophicbacteria and vibrio density indicating that they are efficient colonizers of organic-rich sediments. Densities of Escherichia coli and Enterococci were not significantly higher than in the reference site, and are likely of terrestrial origin. Thus they cannot be used as specific indicators of fish farm impact.