The influence of suspended mussel culture on the benthic-pelagic coupling was evaluated in the Ria de Vigo, in the coastal upwelling system of the NW Iberian Peninsula, during the month of July 2004. Measurements of water column properties were carried out at three stations in the Ria de Vigo: under a mussel raft (1), and at two reference sites in the main channel (2) and in the inner part (3) of the Ria. Dissolved nutrients, dissolved oxygen and inorganic carbon benthic fluxes were measured by means of a benthic chamber at stations 1 and 3. Sediment traps were deployed at 6 locations to estimate vertical fluxes. The water column structure at the three study stations was very similar, characterized by upwelling conditions during the second week of July and a posterior stratification showing a strong thermocline, with a depth fluctuation mainly modulated by the shelf wind regime. Vertical POC fluxes underneath the mussel raft (3gC m(-2) d(-1)) were 3 times higher than those obtained between rafts and 10 times higher than in the main channel reference site. Dissolved oxygen, ammonium, silicate and phosphate benthic fluxes were significantly higher under the raft than at the inner Ria reference site. A 1D carbon budget showed the importance of benthic metabolism under the raft (2.3 +/- 0.8 g C m(-2) d(-1)), being higher than the organic carbon produced at the photic layer (0.7 +/- 0.3 g C m(-2) d(-1)), as a result of higher organic loading compared to the inner Ria reference site. The results show for the first time the important role that suspended mussel cultures play in the benthic-pelagic coupling in this coastal upwelling ecosystem.
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