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The role of the blue mussel (Mytilus sp.) as a habitat-forming species on subtidal hard and soft substrates in the Baltic Sea
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The role of habitat-modifying species may differ between different environmental settings. Therefore, we compared the effects of aggregating suspension-feeding blue mussels Mytilus sp. on associated species on subtidal hard and soft substrates. We used random quantitative samples collected from hard and soft substrates to assess species richness, composition and community structure of the Mytilus-red algal habitat in the northern Baltic proper. On soft substrate, we found a positive relationship between the biomass of Mytilus sp. and the red alga Furcellaria lumbricalis, while Phyllophora spp. was associated to Mytilus on both substrate types. On soft substrate, Mytilus sp. facilitated F. lumbricalis and other algal species by providing secondary substrate for attachment, e.g. shell and entangling byssus treads. This close Mytilus-red algal association had the same species richness on both hard and soft substrates. However, community structure differed between substrate types, especially when comparing the animal community. Multivariate analyses showed that on hard substrate, F. lumbricalis determined community structure, both individually and even more so in combination with Mytilus sp. In contrast, on soft substrate, Mytilus sp. was found to structure the plant, but not animal, community. Species interactions were found to differ between substrate types. A positive relationship was found between Mytilus sp. and Macoma balthica on hard substrate, while not on soft substrate. In general, the facilitating effects of Mytilus sp. on associated species were stronger on soft compared to hard substrates.

Keyword [en]
ecosystem engineering, facilitation, Mytilus sp., red algae, species interactions, biodiversity, species richness, community structure
Research subject
Marine Ecology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27322OAI: diva2:213776
Available from: 2009-04-29 Created: 2009-04-29 Last updated: 2010-01-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Importance of blue mussels for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in subtidal habitats
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Importance of blue mussels for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in subtidal habitats
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Blue mussels, Mytilus spp., occur on rocky and sedimentary shores worldwide where they often form dense aggregates. These assemblages change the local environment and create unique habitats. By extensive filter-feeding, the mussels regulate availability and flow of resources such as nutrients and organic material, and are thereby important in benthic-pelagic coupling. This thesis investigates the role of Mytilus spp. for the diversity of associated species, ecosystem functioning and services that the mussels provides. My results show that Mytilus habitats support highly diverse associated communities, especially in subtidal sediment habitats in the Skagerrak and Baltic Sea. The macrofauna species richness was shown to correlate with mussel patch size and biomass. Structural properties of Mytilus spp. provide substrate for attachment, shelter and increase habitat complexity in the system, which was found to enhance species diversity. Biological activities of the mussels, e.g. filter-feeding, biodeposition and nutrient regeneration, seemed to determine the abundance, biomass and functioning of the associated plant and animal communities. The communities are dependent on import of energy resources through the mussels filter-feeding from the pelagic system, which increase contents of organic carbon and nitrogen in sediments by biodeposition even in very small patches. At larger scale, the role of Mytilus spp. as a habitat-modifying species varied between substrate types. On soft substrate, where physical structure is scarce, Mytilus spp. had strong positive effects on the associated algal community, while on hard substrate much less influence was found. In Flensborg fjord, when coexisting with eelgrass, Zostera marina, presence of Mytilus edulis influenced the grain size and biogeochemistry of the sediment, which in turn, seemed to induce sulphide stress in the plants and change plant performance. Due to its biomass dominance and substantial water-filtering capacity, Mytilus sp. tends to counteract eutrophication and maintain water quality maintenance services in the Baltic Sea. The mussels' filtration of plankton and particulate organic material from the pelagic system improves the light climate for benthic algae and increase production of other benthic organisms. This promotes a shift from a turbid plankton dominated system to a highly diverse and productive benthic system. I conclude that Mytilus spp. is important for sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of subtidal habitats, especially in the Baltic coastal zone.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of System Ecology, Stockholm Univeristy, 2009. 49 p.
blue mussel, Mytilus spp., ecosystem engineering, habitat-modifier, diversity, facilitation, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and water quality maintenance
National Category
Research subject
Marine Ecotoxicology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27339 (URN)978-91-7155-883-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-05-29, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapernas hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8A, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-05-08 Created: 2009-04-29 Last updated: 2010-01-14Bibliographically approved

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