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Polybridge Season 3: Ecosystem effects of polychaete-assisted sand filters

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Palmer, P. J., Wang, S., Mann, D. and Nash, W. J. (2018) Polybridge Season 3: Ecosystem effects of polychaete-assisted sand filters. Technical Report. Queensland Government, Brisbane.

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This study is an extension of research undertaken in the first two seasons of the Polybridge Project (2013-2016: for results see Palmer et al., 2016), which sought to investigate operational aspects of polychaete-assisted sand filters (PASF) when deployed for scaled prawn farm recirculation at the Bribie Island Research Centre (BIRC). The aims of the present work were to assess its functionality with increased organic loading rates provided by higher prawn stocking densities than previously trialled, and to assess the ecological effects on this integrated farming system when using PASF to initially fill ponds for a range of biosecurity purposes.
Using prawn postlarval stocking densities in excess of 44 m-2, prawn production of up to 12 tonnes ha-1 was achieved without discharge of any wastewater during the production season (2015-16). However, the average production for the two ponds was 9.4 tonnes ha-1, which was lower than in the previous season (9.9 tonnes ha-1 in 2014/15) which used a lower prawn stocking density (37.5 postlarvae m-2). The prawns and worms produced were again healthy and of high commercial quality and value, but slower prawn growth (particularly after 140 d) and lower worm survival limited overall production in the fully-recirculated system. There were also several concerning aspects to this closed-system approach that need to be highlighted. Firstly, nutrient levels in the pond waters rose to particularly high levels, and some of the more toxic parameters, such as ammonia, reached critical levels that could be considered dangerous for routine prawn culture operations. Worm production in the PASF beds also suffered from the very rich wastewaters in the integrated system, and the capacity of PASF to filter water via percolation was limited by excessive sand clogging and a build-up of organic matter on the upper surface of the sand beds. The resultant excessive anoxic conditions created in the sand beds appeared to reduce worm productivity which, in turn, reduced their sand cleansing actions, for an overall lower functionality in terms of nutrient (and particularly nitrogen) removal rates.
Alternatively, within the confines of the overall study, there were no significant deleterious effects on worm production or nutrient removal efficacies from using the PASF beds to initially fill the prawn production pond. The apparent effect of this on pond plankton communities was: 1) to slow the development of copepod populations; and 2) change the assemblage of algal species in the first few weeks after filling. This slower development of natural feed organisms in the PASF-filled pond may have provided lower survival of the particularly-young (PL 13) prawn seedstock used to stock the pond. Importantly however, there may be several potential remedies to this issue. These include management for a longer period for bloom development after fill and before stocking, and assuming a greater reliance on artificial feeds more suited to small prawns. As expected, this pond-fill strategy appeared to beneficially help exclude some problematic algal species, and greatly reduced barnacle fouling, though tube worm fouling did not appear overly affected.
The project successfully demonstrated a third successive season of zero-water discharge from an integrated prawn/ worm production system, though ultimately, the water in ponds with some residual nutrients were discharged. The expansion of prawn farming in Australia is limited by nutrient discharge issues, and biosecurity measures are also of increasing interest to this industry. In this legacy project, polychaete-assisted sand filters are further demonstrated to hold potential for biosecurity controls whilst minimising nutrient discharge.

Item Type:Monograph (Technical Report)
Corporate Creators:Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture > Mariculture
Live Archive:01 Mar 2018 05:54
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:44

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