Title

How Well Do We Know the Infaunal Biomass of the Continental Shelf?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-2016

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Abstract

Benthic infauna comprise a wide range of taxa of varying abundances and sizes, but large infaunal taxa are infrequently recorded in community surveys of the shelf benthos. These larger, but numerically rare, species may contribute disproportionately to biomass, however. We examine the degree to which standard benthic sampling gear and survey design provide an adequate estimate of the biomass of large infauna using the Atlantic surfclam, Spisula solidissima, on the continental shelf off the northeastern coast of the United States as a test organism. We develop a numerical model that simulates standard survey designs, gear types, and sampling densities to evaluate the effectiveness of vertically-dropped sampling gear (e.g., boxcores, grabs) for estimating density of large species. Simulations of randomly distributed clams at a density of 0.5-1 m(-2) within an 0.25-km(2) domain show that lower sampling densities (1-5 samples per sampling event) resulted in highly inaccurate estimates of clam density with the presence of clams detected in less than 25% of the sampling events. In all cases in which patchiness was present in the simulated clam population, surveys were prone to very large errors (survey availability events) unless a dense (e.g., 100-sample) sampling protocol was imposed. Thus, commercial quantities of surfclams could easily go completely undetected by any standard benthic community survey protocol using vertically-dropped gear. Without recourse to modern high-volume sampling gear capable of sampling many meters at a swath, such as hydraulic dredges, biomass of the continental shelf will be grievously underestimated if large infauna are present even at moderate densities. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Continental Shelf Research

Volume

115

First Page

27

Last Page

32

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