The effect of high flow events on mussels (Mytilus edulis) in the Conwy estuary, North Wales, UK
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One of the predicted consequences of climate change is an increase in the occurrence of extreme rainfall and a subsequent increase in frequency of high flow events in rivers. High flow events have the potential to impact estuarine communities like mussel assemblages due to decreased salinity and/or the transport of sediments, organic matter and nutrients from the terrestrial environment to the estuary. The impact of two high flow events was investigated using mussels located within the Conwy estuary, North Wales, using the ‘Beyond BACI’ approach. Three study sites were chosen, the potentially impacted site (Conwy) and two control sites located outside the estuary. Sampling took place over 18 months with samples being collected before and after each event. On each sampling occasion, the following data were collected: the total haemocyte count (THC) and condition index (CI) of the mussels and the diversity (Hloge) of their associated macrofauna. A significant effect of the first event (22nd October 2004) was found on the CI of the Conwy mussels, whereas a significant effect of the second event (10th October 2005) was found on mussel THC. No effect of either event was found on the diversity of the associated fauna. The results of this study suggest that any increase in the number or intensity of heavy precipitation or high flow events have potential implications for the health and resilience of estuarine mussel populations.
KeywordsEstuary Mussels Climate change High flow Immunology Diversity
The authors would like to thank the Natural Environment Research Council and the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology for funding this project and Shelagh Malham for her assistance with the immunological aspects of the study. R. Seed and B. Reynolds were co-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (grant number BB/C507129/1). We would also like to thank two anonymous referees for their useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.
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