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The Ecological Importance of Pools in the Mussel Bed

Claassen, Jorn (2019) The Ecological Importance of Pools in the Mussel Bed. Research Project 1, Marine Biology.


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Blue mussels, Mytilus edulis L., in the Wadden Sea build intertidal beds on the mud flats. Mussel beds provide scale dependent ecosystem-engineering functions. For example, the settlement of cockles, Cerastoderma edule L., is facilitated up to a 100 m’s on the leeward side of the reefs. At the same time, the reefs facilitate the settlement of Fucus vesiculosus L. and other organisms on the bed itself. On the mussel bed, structural differences include pools, which are hollows in the mussel bed that retain water during low tide; and inlets, which are hollows that are for the most part surrounded by mussels but have an opening to the mudflats and do not retain water. In inlets, large heaps of mud and diatoms can be found. The consequences for biodiversity of the structural differences on mussel reefs remain largely unstudied. The aim of this research therefore is to analyse how the complexity created by mussels influences associated species. I studied the effects of structural differences on a mussel reef on abiotic factors, such as elevation, erosion and sediment transport, and how this in turn affected biotic factors, such as organic matter content and species composition. Pools, inlets and the mussel aggregations in between, differed from each other concerning both abiotic and biotic factors. Pools contain less organic matter and experience less erosion. Inlets have higher erosion rates, but also more organic matter content. This way, the different locations vary from stressful, but food-rich, to more calm spots, with also less food available. Different species of infauna prefer the different locations. So is Scoloplos armiger mostly found in the calm pools, filled with shell-debris, and Macoma baltica prefers the muddy heaps of diatoms in the inlets. My results suggest that the differences between pools, inlets and mussel bed, facilitate a complex community of different species and high biodiversity, by creating niches for many species.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 1)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Degree programme: Marine Biology
Thesis type: Research Project 1
Language: English
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2019
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2019 14:37

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