Previous studies have inferred that the side effects of physical disturbance associated with bait-collecting for the sandprawn Callianassa kraussi are more deleterious than the actual removal of the prawns. The present study was specifically designed to disentangle the side-effects of trampling and disturbance associated with using suction pumps for bait-collecting. Separate areas were sucked over with a prawn pump at three different intensities, and the prawns collected from these areas subsequently returned to them. A parallel treatment involved trampling the sediment at levels comparable to the 'sucking' intensities, without removing the prawns. The responses of the meiofauna, macrofauna and microflora were assessed six weeks after this disturbance.
Prawn densities were depressed six weeks following both sucking and trampling but recovered by 32 weeks. The meiofauna responded positively to some of the disturbance treatments; macrofaunal numbers on the other hand, declined in most treatment areas, and similarity analysis and multidimensional scaling showed that macrofaunal community composition in the most-disturbed areas was distinct from that in other areas. Chlorophyll levels were reduced at the more intensely-disturbed sites.
The results corroborate the conclusion that trampling per se has almost the same effect as sucking for prawns, on both the prawns and on the associated biota. This has important implications in terms of managing the use of lagoonal and estuarine ecosystems.