Recovery of tropical marine benthos after a trawl ban demonstrates linkage between abiotic and biotic changes

Zhi WANG, Kenneth M. Y. LEUNG*, Yik-hei SUNG, David DUDGEON, Jian-wen QIU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

Bottom trawling, which is highly detrimental to seabed habitats, has been banned in some jurisdictions to mitigate the problems of habitat destruction and overfishing. However, most reports of ecosystem responses to trawling impacts originate from temperate latitudes, focusing on commercial species, and recovery of invertebrate macrobenthos from trawl ban has hardly ever been studied in the tropics. In Hong Kong (lat. 22.4°N), a history of intensive trawling with various types of gears has long degraded coastal ecosystems. To facilitate the recovery of fisheries resources and associated benthic ecosystems, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region implemented a territory-wide trawl ban on December 31, 2012. Comparison of surveys conducted in June 2012 (before the trawl ban) and June 2015 (2.5 years after the ban) revealed higher organic contents in sediment and lower suspended-solid loads in water column, as well as a significant increase in site-based abundance, species richness, functional diversity and among-site similarity of macrobenthos after the trawl ban. Our results suggest that the imposition of a trawl ban can be an effective measure for biodiversity conservation in tropical coastal waters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number212
Number of pages8
JournalCommunications Biology
Volume4
Early online date16 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was substantially funded by Research Grants Council of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region via a Collaborative Research Fund (project number HKU5/CRF/12 G) to K.M.Y.L. The writing of this paper was partially supported by the Key Special Project for Introduced Talents Team of the Southern Marine Science and Technology Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou) (grant numbers GML2019ZD0404, GML2019ZD0409). We thank Ms. Helen Leung and Dr. Yu Sheung Law for their technical support.

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