, Volume 440, Issue 1–3, pp 119–128 | Cite as

Direct and indirect effects of Littorina littorea (L.) on barnacles growing on mussel beds in the Wadden Sea

  • Christian Buschbaum


On the extensive sedimentary tidal flats of the Wadden Sea, beds of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis represent the only major hard substratum and attachment surface for sessile organisms. On this substratum, the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides is the most frequent epibiont. In summer 1998, it occurred on over 90% of the large mussels (>45 mm shell length) and the dry weight of barnacles reached 65% of mussel dry weight. However, the extent of barnacle overgrowth is not constant and differs widely between years. Periwinkles (Littorina littorea) may reach densities >2000 m−2 on intertidal mussel beds. Field experiments were conducted to test the effect of periwinkle grazing on barnacle densities. An experimental reduction of grazing and bulldozing pressure by periwinkles resulted in increased recruitment of barnacles, while barnacle numbers decreased with increasing snail density. The highest numbers of barnacles survived in the absence of L. littorea. However, a lack of periwinkle grazing activity also facilitated settlement of ephemeral algae which settled later in the year. Field experiments showed that the growth rate of barnacles decreased in the presence of these ephemeral algae. Thus, L. littorea may reduce initial barnacle settlement, but later may indirectly increase barnacle growth rate by reducing ephemeral algae. It is suggested that periwinkle density may be a key factor in the population dynamics of S. balanoides on intertidal mussel beds in the Wadden Sea.

grazing direct and indirect effects barnacles algae mussel bed 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

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  • Christian Buschbaum

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