What a drag: Quantifying the global impact of chronic bottom trawling on continental shelf sediment

Journal of Marine Systems
By: , and 



Continental shelves worldwide are subject to intense bottom trawling that causes sediment to be resuspended. The widely used traditional concepts of modern sedimentary transport systems on the shelf rely only on estimates for naturally driven sediment resuspension such as through storm waves, bottom currents, and gravity-driven flows but they overlook a critical anthropogenic factor. The strong influence of bottom trawling on a source-to-sink sediment budget is explored on the NW Iberian shelf. Use of Automated Information System vessel tracking data provides for a high-resolution vessel track reconstruction and the accurate calculation of the spatial distribution of bottom trawling intensity and associated resuspended sediment load. The mean bottom trawling-induced resuspended sediment mass for the NW Iberian shelf is 13.50 Mt yr− 1, which leads to a six-fold increase in off-shelf sediment transport when compared to natural resuspension mechanisms. The source-to-sink budget analysis provides evidence that bottom trawling causes a rapid erosion of the fine sediment on human time scales. Combining global soft sediment distribution data of the shelves with worldwide bottom trawling intensity estimates we show that the bottom trawling-induced resuspended sediment mass amounts to approximately the same mass of all sediment entering the shelves through rivers. Spatial delineations between natural and anthropogenic sediment resuspension areas are presented to aid in marine management questions.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title What a drag: Quantifying the global impact of chronic bottom trawling on continental shelf sediment
Series title Journal of Marine Systems
DOI 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2015.12.007
Volume 159
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 109
Last page 119
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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