Macroalgal mats in a eutrophic estuarine marine protected area
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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Green macroalgal mats are a consequence of increased nutrient input into estuarine ecosystems and can cover extensive areas of intertidal habitats. The extent and biomass of mats is a key metric for estuarine ecological condition assessment. We measured macroalgal mats in Poole Harbour Marine Protected Area (MPA) from 2013 to 2015. Peak biomass reached gt;2 kg m-2 and persisted at gt;1 kg m-2 with gt;50% coverage throughout both seasons. Intertidal mudflats in Poole Harbour MPA contain an abundance and diversity of benthic macrofauna providing a vital prey resource for 20,000 overwintering wading birds. Overall invertebrate abundance declined when macroalgal mat biomass gt;800 g m-2. Dense macroalgal mats persisted into autumn thereby coinciding with the arrival of the overwintering wading birds. This level of coverage, combined with reduced prey energy, could lead to a decline in the designated feature with implications for the UK’s binding agreements, and lead to sanctions under current legislation.