A survey of benthic macrofauna in the vicinity of a coastal marine aggregate dredging site off the south coast of UK was carried out in 1999. The object of the survey was to determine impact of marine aggregate dredging on community composition, the extent of impact outside the boundaries of the dredge site, and the rate of recolonization and recovery of the fauna following cessation of dredging. Part of the site was intensively dredged by vessels at anchor whilst other parts were less intensively exploited by trailer dredger. The impact of dredging within the intensively exploited anchor dredge site was limited to the dredged area. Impacts included a suppression of species variety, population density and biomass, as well as differences in species composition compared with the surrounding deposits. In contrast, trailer dredging had no impact on community composition of macrofauna within the dredge site.
No suppression of benthic community structure was recorded beyond 100 m from the dredge site. Species variety, population density, biomass and body size of macrofauna was enhanced for as much as 2 kilometers in each direction along the axis of the tidal streams. Whether this reflects organic enrichment derived from the dredge site warrants further investigation.
The rate of restoration of biomass following dredging was slower than that recorded for species diversity and population density. The data for the North Nab study site allow a generalised recolonization sequence to be constructed for coastal deposits.