Horse mussel reef ecosystem services: evidence for a whelk nursery habitat supporting a shellfishery

Flora Kent, Mark Gray, Kim Last, William Sanderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Demonstrating the benefits that marine ecosystems provide to society can support marine spatial planning and enhance the protection of fragile, biodiverse habitats. However, the importance of ecosystem services provided by such habitats is rarely accounted for in spatial management due to a lack of detailed information. The present study investigated the ‘habitat provision’ ecosystem service delivered by horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus (L.)) reefs, a ‘Priority Marine Habitat’ in the NE Atlantic. By working with local fishers, the abundance and demographics of commercially important whelks (Buccinum undatum) were examined. B. undatum catches were three times higher on reef sites and a greater number of smaller individuals were caught on the reefs compared to off-reef habitats. We therefore show that these productive and physically complex mussel reefs are important feeding and nursery areas for whelks, demonstrating the ‘essential fish habitat’ value of the now rare M. modiolus reefs. The results are discussed in the context of marine spatial planning and the potential for historically more widespread shellfish habitats to have been capable of providing substantial ecosystem services.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)172-180
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Biodiversity Science Ecosystem Services and Management
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2016


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