Lost in translation? Multi-metric macrobenthos indicators and bottom trawling

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The member states of the European Union use multi-metric macrobenthos indicators to monitor the ecological status of their marine waters in relation to the Water Framework and Marine Strategy Framework Directives. The indicators translate the general descriptors of ecological quality in the directives into a single value of ecological status by combining indices of species diversity, species sensitivity and density. Studies and inter-calibration exercises have shown that the indicators respond to chemical pollution and organic enrichment, but little is known about their response to bottom trawling. We use linear mixed effects models to analyze how bottom trawling intensity affects the indicators used in the Danish (Danish Quality Index, DKI) and Swedish (Benthic Quality Index, BQI) environmental monitoring programs in the Kattegat, the sea area between Sweden and Denmark. Using year and station as random variables and trawling intensity, habitat type, salinity and depth as fixed variables we find a significant negative relationship between the BQI indicator and bottom trawling, while the DKI is related significantly to salinity, but not to trawling intensity. Among the indicator components, the species diversity and sensitivity indices used in the DKI are not significantly linked to trawling, and trawling only affects the BQI when species sensitivities are derived from rarefied samples. Because the number of species recorded per sample (species density) is limited by the number of individuals per sample (density), we expect species density and density to be positively correlated. This correlation was confirmed by a simulation model and by statistical analysis of the bottom samples in which log species density was highly significantly related to log density (r = 0.75, df = 144, p 
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Indicators
Pages (from-to)260-270
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Water Resources
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Chemical Products Generally
  • Physical Properties of Gases, Liquids and Solids
  • Bottom trawling
  • Density
  • Macrobenthos indicators
  • Marine strategy framework directive
  • Species richness
  • Water framework directive
  • Biodiversity
  • Density (specific gravity)
  • Ecology
  • Environmental regulations
  • Forestry
  • Indicators (chemical)
  • Pollution control
  • Water conservation
  • Macro benthos
  • Marine strategy framework directives
  • Water Framework Directives
  • Fisheries


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