, Volume 606, Issue 1, pp 117–127 | Cite as

The effect of high flow events on mussels (Mytilus edulis) in the Conwy estuary, North Wales, UK

  • Lucie R. OliverEmail author
  • Raymond Seed
  • Brian Reynolds


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.


Estuary 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.


  1. Auffret, M. & R. Oubella, 1995. Cytological and cytometric analysis of bivalve mollusc haemocytes. In Stolen, J. S., T. C. Fletcher, S. A. Smith, J. T. Zelikoff, S. L. Kaattari, R. S. Anderson, K. Soderhall & B. A. Weeks-Perkins (eds), Techniques in Fish Immunology—4. Immunology and Pathology of Aquatic Invertebrates. SOS Publications, Fair Haven, NJ, USA: 55–64.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhmet, I. N., V. J. Berger & V. V. Khalaman, 2005. The effect of salinity change on the heart rate of Mytilus edulis specimens from different ecological zones. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 318: 121–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berger, V. J. & A. D. Kharazova, 1997. Mechanisms of salinity adaptations in marine molluscs. Hydrobiologia 355: 115–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bocchetti, R. & F. Regoli, 2006. Seasonal variability of oxidative biomarkers, lysosomal parameters, metallothioneins and peroxisomal enzymes in the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis from Adriatic Sea. Chemosphere 65: 913–921.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Booij, M. J., 2005. Impact of climate change on river flooding assessed with different spatial model resolutions. Journal of Hydrology 303: 176–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braby, C. E. & G. N. Somero, 2006. Following the heart: temperature and salinity effects on heart rate in native and invasive species of blue mussels (genus Mytilus). Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 2554–2566.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cajaraville, M. P., I. Olabarrieta & I. Marigomez, 1996. In vitro activities in mussel haemocytes as biomarkers of environmental quality: a case study in the Abra Estuary (Biscay Bay). Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 35: 253–260.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chainho, P., J. L. Costa, M. L. Chaves, M. F. Lane, D. M. Dauer & M. J. Costa, 2006. Seasonal and spatial patterns of distribution of subtidal benthic invertebrate communities in the Mondego River, Portugal—a poikilohaline estuary. Hydrobiologia 555: 59–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chollett, I. & D. Bone, 2007. Effects of heavy rainfall on polychaetes: differential spatial patterns generated by a large-scale disturbance. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 340: 113–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Currie, D. R. & K. J. Small, 2005. Macrobenthic community responses to long-term environmental change in an east Australian sub-tropical estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 63: 315–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davenport, J., 1979. The isolation response of mussels Mytilus edulis L. exposed to falling seawater concentrations. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 59: 123–132.Google Scholar
  12. Davenport, J., 1982. Environmental simulation experiments on marine and estuarine animals. Advances in Marine Biology 19: 133–256.Google Scholar
  13. Davis, S. E., J. E. Cable, D. L. Childers, C. Coronado-Molina, J. W. Day, C. D. Hittle, C. J. Madden, E. Reyes, D. Rudnick & F. Sklar, 2004. Importance of storm events in controlling ecosystem structure and function in a Florida Gulf Coast estuary. Journal of Coastal Research 20: 1198–1208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Bravo, M. I. S., 2003. Influence of salinity on the physiological conditions in mussels, Perna perna and Perna viridis (Bivalvia: Mytilidae). Revista de Biologia Tropical 51: 153–158.Google Scholar
  15. Delaporte, M., P. Soudant, C. Lambert, J. Moal, S. Pouvreau & J. Samain, 2006. Impact of food availability on energy storage and defense related haemocyte parameters of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas during an experimental reproductive cycle. Aquaculture 254: 571–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher, W. S., 1988. Environmental influence on bivalve haemocyte function. American Fisheries Society Special Publications 18: 225–237.Google Scholar
  17. Fisher, W. S., L. Oliver & P. Edwards, 1996. Hematological and serologic variability of Eastern oysters from Apalachicola Bay, Florida. Journal of Shellfish Research 15: 555–564.Google Scholar
  18. Foster, G. D., E. C. Roberts Jr, B. Gruessnerb & V. J. Velinskyc, 2000. Hydrogeochemistry and transport of organic contaminants in an urban watershed of Chesapeake Bay (USA). Applied Geochemistry 15: 901–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gagnaire, B., H. Frouin, K. Moreau, H. Thomas-Guyon & T. Renault, 2006. Effects of temperature and salinity on haemocyte activities of the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg). Fish and Shellfish Immunology 20: 536–547.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gardner, J. P. A. & R. J. Thompson, 2001. The effects of coastal and estuarine conditions on the physiology and survivorship of the mussels Mytilus edulis, M-trossulus and their hybrids. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 265: 119–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glasby, T. M., 1997. Analysing data from post-impact studies using asymmetrical analyses of variance: a case study of epibiota on marinas. Australian Journal of Ecology 22: 448–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hancock, P. J., 2006. The response of hyporheic invertebrate communities to a large flood in the Hunter River, New South Wales. Hydrobiologia 568: 255–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kimmerer, W. J., 2002. Effects of freshwater flow on abundance of estuarine organisms: physical effects or trophic linkages? Marine Ecology Progress Series 243: 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laing, I. & B. E. Spencer, 1997. Bivalve Cultivation: Criteria for Selecting a Site. Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft, UK.Google Scholar
  25. Lintas, C. & R. Seed, 1994. Spatial variation in the fauna associated with Mytilus edulis on a wave-exposed rocky shore. Journal of Molluscan Research 60: 165–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Martello, L. B., C. S. Friedman & R. S. Tjeerdema, 2000. Combined effects of pentachlorophenol and salinity stress on phagocytic and chemotactic function in two species of abalone. Aquatic Toxicology 49: 213–225.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Matthews, T. G. & A. J. Constable, 2004. Effect of flooding on estuarine bivalve populations near the mouth of the Hopkins River, Victoria, Australia. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84: 633–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McNeish, A. S., M. S. Johnson & R. T. Leah, 1997. Methylated hexachlorocyclohexane in blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) from the Mersey and Dee estuaries. Environmental Pollution 95: 303–309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Montagna, P. A. & R. D. Kalke, 1992. The effect of freshwater inflow on meiofaunal and macrofaunal populations in the Guadalupe and Nueces estuaries, Texas. Estuaries 15: 307–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore, M. N., J. I. Allen & P. J. Somerfield, 2006. Autophagy: role in surviving environmental stress. Marine Environmental Research 62, S420–S425.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morrisey, D. J., A. J. Underwood, L. Howitt & J. S. Stark, 1992. Temporal variation in soft-sediment benthos. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 164: 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mudge, S. M. & C. E. Norris, 1997. Lipid biomarkers in the Conwy Estuary (North Wales, U.K.): a comparison between fatty alcohols and sterols. Marine Chemistry 57: 61–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Newell, C. R., D. J. Wildish & B. A. MacDonald, 2001. The effects of velocity and seston concentration on the exhalant siphon area, valve gape and filtration rate of the mussel Mytilus edulis. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 262: 91–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nicholson, S., 1999. Cytological and physiological biomarker responses from green mussels, Perna viridis (L.) transplanted to contaminated sites in Hong Kong coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 39: 261–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pelc, M. & R. R. Alexander, 1999. Salinity and sediment-mediated byssal thread production by Mytilus edulis Linnaeus and Geukensia demissa Dillwyn from New Jersey salt marshes. Journal of Shellfish Research 18: 375–384.Google Scholar
  36. Pfeifer, S., D. Schiedek & J. W. Dippner, 2005. Effect of temperature and salinity on acetylcholinesterase activity, a common pollution biomarker, in Mytilus sp. from the south-western Baltic Sea. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 320: 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Prins, T. C. & A. C. Smaal, 1994. The role of the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, in the cycling of nutrients in the Ooesterschelde Estuary (the Netherlands). Hydrobiologia 283: 413–429.Google Scholar
  38. Queiroz, N., F. P. Lima, P. A. Ribeiro, S. G. Pereira & A. M. Santos, 2006. Using asymmetrical designs for environmental impact assessment of unplanned disturbances. Hydrobiologia 555: 223–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ritter, C., P. A. Montagna & S. Applebaum, 2005. Short-term succession dynamics of macrobenthos in a salinity-stressed estuary. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 323: 57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Roberts, D. E., A. Smith, P. Ajani & A. R. Davis, 1998. Rapid changes in encrusting marine assemblages exposed to anthropogenic point-source pollution: a ‘Beyond BACI’ approach. Marine Ecology Progress Series 163: 213–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rutger, S. M. & S. R. Wing, 2006. Effects of freshwater input on shallow-water infaunal communities in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. Marine Ecology Progress Series 314: 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sadok, S., R. F. Uglow & S. J. Haswell, 1997. Haemolymph and mantle fluid ammonia and ninhydrin positive substances variations in salinity-challenged mussels (Mytilus edulis L.). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 212: 195–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Saier, B., 2001. Direct and indirect effects of seastars Asterias rubens on mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) in the Wadden Sea. Journal of Sea Research 46: 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Seed, R., 1996. Patterns of biodiversity in the macro-invertebrate fauna associated with mussel patches on rocky shores. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 76: 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Seed, R. & T. H. Suchanek, 1992. Population and community ecology of Mytilus. In Gosling, E. (ed.), The Mussel Mytilus: Ecology, Physiology, Genetics and Culture. Elsevier, Amsterdam: 589.Google Scholar
  46. Silva, G., J. L. Costa, P. Raposo de Almeida & M. J. Costa, 2006. Structure and dynamics of a benthic invertebrate community in an intertidal area of the Tagus estuary, western Portugal: a six year data series. Hydrobiologia 555: 115–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sukhotin, J., D. L. Lajus & P. A. Lesin, 2003. Influence of age and size on pumping activity and stress resistance in the marine bivalve Mytilus edulis L. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 284: 129–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Underwood, A. J., 1992. Beyond BACI: the detection of environmental impacts on populations in the real, but variable, world. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 161: 145–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Winter, J. E., 1978. A review on the knowledge of suspension-feeding in lamellibranchiate bivalves, with special reference to artificial aquaculture systems. Aquaculture 13: 1–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Witman, J. D. & K. R. Grange, 1998. Links between rain, salinity and predation in a rocky, subtidal community. Ecology 79: 2429–2447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zonta, R., F. Collavini, L. Zaggia & A. Zuliana, 2005. The effect of floods on the transport of suspended sediments and contaminants: a case study from the estuary of the Dese River (Venice Lagoon, Italy). Environment International 31: 948–958.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucie R. Oliver
    • 1
    Email author
  • Raymond Seed
    • 1
  • Brian Reynolds
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Ocean SciencesUniversity of Wales, BangorMenai BridgeUK
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, BangorBangorUK

Personalised recommendations