Data_Sheet_1_Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Benthic Macrofaunal Communities in Relation to the Recovery of Coastal Aquaculture Operations Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.docx

The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami wiped out over 1200 shellfish and ascidian culture long-lines and ∼120 salmon farm cages that comprised the entire aquaculture installations in Onagawa Bay, Japan, and severely altered the associated ecosystem. A year later, we launched a coordinated monitoring program to measure the extent of the damage caused by the disaster and monitor the change in the state of the marine ecosystem. As part of this effort, we conducted multi-seasonal sampling to characterize spatio-temporal variation in benthic macrofaunal community and a range of environmental parameters across Onagawa Bay between March 2012 and January 2018. The 492 total macrofaunal species recorded included Polychaeta (38.8%), Bivalvia (13.2%), Amphipoda (10.8%), Decapoda (9.6%), Gastropoda (9.3%), and Echinodermata (4.3%). At the outermost reference site, macrofaunal abundance, biomass, and species diversity were all consistently high throughout the study period. Inside Onagawa Bay, macrofauna metrics increased steadily from the lowest values at the beginning of the study to the highest over time. During the same period, the spatial extent of aquaculture facilities for long-lines and fish cages recovered steadily to within 60.8% and 74.8% of the original state, respectively. The significant variables identified by multivariate analysis to explain spatio-temporal variability in benthic macrofaunal communities were: (1) proximity to the nearest aquaculture facilities; (2) wind fetch length (exposure); (3) sediment grain size; and (4) the total area of aquaculture facilities. This study suggests that coastal aquaculture operations may strongly influence the occurrence and distribution of benthic macrofaunal communities and thereby influence the recovery of seafloor biota at ecosystem scales following a catastrophic natural disaster.