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  • Theme V: The Response of Benthic Suspension Feeders to Environmental Changes
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The role of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis in the cycling of nutrients in the Oosterschelde estuary (The Netherlands)

Abstract

The fluxes of particulate and dissolved material between bivalve beds and the water column in the Oosterschelde estuary have been measured in situ with a Benthic Ecosystem Tunnel. On mussel beds uptake of POC, PON and POP was observed. POC and PON fluxes showed a significant positive correlation, and the average C:N ratio of the fluxes was 9.4. There was a high release of phosphate, nitrate, ammonium and silicate from the mussel bed into the water column. The effluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphate showed a significant correlation, with an average N:P ratio of 16.5. A comparison of the in situ measurements with individual nutrient excretion rates showed that excretion by the mussels contributed 31–85% to the total phosphate flux from the mussel bed. Ammonium excretion by the mussels accounted for 17–94% of the ammonium flux from the mussel bed. The mussels did not excrete silicate or nitrate. Mineralization of biodeposition on the mussel bed was probably the main source of the regenerated nutrients.

From the in situ observations net budgets of N, P and Si for the mussel bed were calculated. A comparison between the uptake of particulate organic N and the release of dissolved inorganic N (ammonium + nitrate) showed that little N is retained by the mussel bed, and suggested that denitrification is a minor process in the mussel bed sediment. On average, only 2/3 of the particulate organic P, taken up by the mussel bed, was recycled as phosphate. A net Si uptake was observed during phytoplankton blooms, and a net release dominated during autumn. It is concluded that mussel beds increase the mineralization rate of phytoplankton and affect nutrient ratios in the water column. A comparison of N regeneration by mussels in the central part of the Oosterschelde estuary with model estimates of total N remineralization showed that mussels play a major role in the recycling of nitrogen.

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Prins, T.C., Smaal, A.C. The role of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis in the cycling of nutrients in the Oosterschelde estuary (The Netherlands). Hydrobiologia 282, 413–429 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00024645

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Key words

  • Oosterschelde estuary
  • Mytilus edulis
  • nutrient cycling
  • phytoplankton
  • biodeposition
  • N-cycle