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Large-scale distribution patterns of the mussel Mytilus edulis in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein: do storms stucture the ecosystem?
Nehls, G.; Thiel, M. (1993). Large-scale distribution patterns of the mussel Mytilus edulis in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein: do storms stucture the ecosystem? Neth. J. Sea Res. 31(2): 181-187
In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ): Groningen; Den Burg. ISSN 0077-7579, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Nehls, G.
  • Thiel, M.

Abstract
    The distribution of mussel beds in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein was mapped by aerial surveys from 1989 to 1991. The number of mussel beds decreased from 94 in 1989 to 49 in 1990, as a result of severe storms in early 1990. Thereafter only small changes were observed. The mussel beds that remained in 1990 were found only in the shelter of islands; all beds in exposed areas had disappeared between the surveys of 1989 and 1990, leaving large areas without mussel beds. Storms are thus identified as a major factor limiting the distribution of mussel beds to the sheltered parts of the Wadden Sea. Beds in the exposed parts of the Wadden Sea are highly dynamic, whereas beds in sheltered areas may persist over long times. A comparison with distribution patterns of older surveys (from 1937, 1968 and 1978) revealed great similarities with the results of recent investigations, indicating a constant distribution pattern over a long period. The results are discussed in relation to eutrophication and the structure of the benthic communities of the Wadden Sea. It is concluded that any eutrophication-induced increase of the mussel population would be restricted to the sheltered parts of the Wadden Sea. Storms will largely determine whether the communities of a given area have to compete with mussels, which are the most important filter feeders of the ecosystem. As competition for food is a major factor structuring the benthic communities of the Wadden Sea, it is assumed that storms indirectly affect all other communities, giving deeper-burying, storm-tolerant species a competitive advantage in exposed areas where epibenthic mussels are excluded. The impact of mussel fisheries will be different for persisting and dynamic beds: fishing on persisting beds in sheltered areas may remove the crucial reserve which mussel-feeding birds such as eiders or oystercatchers need in times of low mussel populations.

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