Boese, B.L. 2002. Effects of recreational clam harvesting on eelgrass (Zostera marina) and associated infaunal invertebrates: in situ manipulative experiments. Aquatic Botany 73:63-74. WED-01-058
The effect of recreational clam harvesting on eelgrass (Zostera marina) was experimentally tested by raking or digging for clams in experimental 1-m2 plots located in a Yaquina Bay (Newport, OR) eelgrass meadow. After three monthly treatments, eelgrass measures of biomass, primary production (leaf elongation), and percent cover were compared between experimental and control (undisturbed) plots. Benthic macro (retained on 0.5-mm mesh sieve) and mega (retained on 3-mm sieve) infaunal samples were also taken to compare species number and abundances. Results indicated that clam raking did not appreciably impact any measured parameter. In contrast, clam digging reduced measures of eelgrass cover, above-ground biomass and below-ground biomass made one month after the last of three monthly treatments. Although differences between control and treatment plots persisted ten months after the last clam digging treatment, these differences were not statistically significant. As only about 10% of the eelgrass of Yaquina Bay is subjected to recreational clamming and as this activity is generally less intense than that employed in this study, as a whole it is unlikely that recreational clamming has a major impact on eelgrass beds in the Yaquina estuary. This conclusion should be viewed with caution as multi-year disturbances were not simulated in the present study and there are apparent differences in sediment characteristics and clam abundances between experimental sites and those sites that are intensively harvested by the public.