Effects of ecosystem protection on scallop populations within a community-led temperate marine reserve
This study investigated the effects of a newly established, fully protected marine reserve on benthic habitats and two commercially valuable species of scallop in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran, United Kingdom. Annual dive surveys from 2010 to 2013 showed the abundance of juvenile scallops to be significantly greater within the marine reserve than outside. Generalised linear models revealed this trend to be significantly related to the greater presence of macroalgae and hydroids growing within the boundaries of the reserve. These results suggest that structurally complex habitats growing within the reserve have substantially increased spat settlement and/or survival. The density of adult king scallops declined threefold with increasing distance from the boundaries of the reserve, indicating possible evidence of spillover or reduced fishing effort directly outside and around the marine reserve. However, there was no difference in the mean density of adult scallops between the reserve and outside. Finally, the mean age, size, and reproductive and exploitable biomass of king scallops were all significantly greater within the reserve. In contrast to king scallops, the population dynamics of queen scallops (Aequipecten opercularis) fluctuated randomly over the survey period and showed little difference between the reserve and outside. Overall, this study is consistent with the hypothesis that marine reserves can encourage the recovery of seafloor habitats, which, in turn, can benefit populations of commercially exploited species, emphasising the importance of marine reserves in the ecosystem-based management of fisheries.