The rockweed Ascophyllum nodosum is a dominant component of intertidal communities across the North Atlantic Ocean, providing both habitat and primary productivity to nearshore ecosystems. Commercial exploitation of this species is widespread and typically involves cutting the distal portion of fronds thereby permitting regrowth by lateral branching and generation of new fronds from the perennial holdfast. Two key management parameters for determining the sustainability of this resource are the cutting height and the recovery period between successive harvests. Here, we assess the influence of these two parameters on several indicators of exploitation, including harvested biomass, remaining biomass, annual harvest yield, and biomass recovery. Over a 28-year period, treatments of two levels of cutting height (15 and 30 cm) and five levels of recovery period (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years) were applied to individual 25-m2 plots. This study provides unique observations of the long-term impacts of different management scenarios on Ascophyllum biomass. In general, indicators were lower for shorter recovery periods of 1 and 2 years. Surprisingly, longer recovery periods of 4 and 5 years rarely increased indicators, suggesting that a 3-year recovery period maximizes harvested biomass. Moreover, a longer cutting height did not consistently result in increased indicators, and indeed, the 15-cm cutting height often provided higher values (e.g., annual harvest rates), than the 30-cm cutting height, especially at longer recovery periods. Other impacts of harvesting beyond effects on biomass (e.g., reproductive capacity, canopy structure, scale of harvested areas) were not measured but are discussed and merit further investigation to better determine harvesting regulations.
Journal of Applied Phycology – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 11, 2017
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