1. Monocultures of mussels might alter the infaunal benthic community of adjacent and interstitial sediments through provision of a complex habitat, input of organically rich material and larval removal through filter feeding. At a site of commercial seabed mussel cultivation, we aimed to determine the effect of mussels on the infaunal community of an intertidal mudflat at different spatial scales and under different stocking strategies.
2. Mussels were laid at four different densities (2, 3, 5 and 7.5 kg m-2) on 400-m2 plots in a 4 x 4 Latin square. Benthic samples were collected within and 10-100 m distant from the cultivation area c. 7 months prior to and 18 months after seeding the plots with blue mussels. Benthic community characteristics were related to initial seeding density and to the actual surface area of mussels associated with each set of samples collected within replicate plots.
3. The presence of mussels significantly changed the occurrence of some species of the infaunal community within the cultivated area. The infaunal communities supported fewer individuals and species than control treatments at all but the lowest mussel cover.
4. Species richness and the abundance of individuals per unit area also declined with increased area of mussel cover. The abundance of cirratulids and amphipods declined strongly with increasing mussel surface area.
5. Although the species composition and abundance of individual invertebrate species were altered by the presence of mussels, the distribution of individuals among species remained relatively unchanged.
6. Synthesis and applications. Overall, mussel beds changed the infaunal community, but the effects were localized (0-10 m) and not detectable at larger scales (10-100 m). Changes in benthic community composition could be reduced (but not eliminated) by lowering the stocking density of mussels to either 2 or 3 kg m-2. Given the small edge effects associated with cultivated mussel beds, the use of larger mussel beds would be preferable to many smaller mussel beds.
- Community change
- Ecological impact
- Large-scale experiment
- Mussel cultivation
- Mytilus edulis
ASJC Scopus subject areas