The influences of suspended mussel and infaunal clam cultivation on benthic metabolism and nutrient cycling were compared in Goro lagoon, Italy. Both aquaculture types stimulated benthic metabolism, with sediment oxygen demand (SOD), CO2 and ammonium effluxes of up to 14, 16 and 1.2 mmol m–2 h–1. However, whilst mussel farming preferentially stimulated anaerobic metabolism and sediment reduction, clam farming did not. The mussel ropes were also large oxygen sinks and ammonium sources, with oxygen consumption and ammonium production rates of 1.4 to 1.5 and 0.18 to 0.43 mmol kg–1 h–1. Consequently, the overall impacts of mussel farming on oxygen and nutrient dynamics were much greater than those of clam farming. There were also differences in nitrate-reduction processes and the nitrate sources that fuelled them. In winter, at high water column nitrate concentrations, highest nitrate reduction rates (~320 μmol m–2 h–1) occurred at the mussel farm. Nitrate reduction was driven predominantly by water column nitrate and ~30% of nitrate reduced was recycled to ammonium via dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). At the control and clam farm sites, nitrate reduction rates were lower (~180 μmol m–2 h–1), nitrification supplied ~30% of nitrate and denitrification was dominant. In summer under low nitrate conditions, nitrate reduction was highest (~130 μmol m–2 h–1) at the mussel farm site, but this activity was completely dependent upon water column nitrate and 95% of nitrate was reduced via DNRA. In contrast, at the clam farm station, DNRA was unimportant and nitrification was the major nitrate source for denitrification. Consequently, whilst nitrate reduction processes eliminated fixed N from the clam farm sediments via coupled nitrificationdenitrification, the dominance of DNRA at the mussel farm site resulted in a net N input to the sediment compartment. These large differences in the impacts of clam and mussel farming can be explained by the fact that infaunal clams stimulate transfer of both organic matter and oxygen to the sediment, whereas suspended mussels enhance only organic matter inputs.
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