Large-Scale Spatial Dynamics of Intertidal Mussel (Mytilus edulis L.) Bed Coverage in the German and Dutch Wadden Sea

Eelke O. Folmer, Jan Drent, Karin Troost, Heike Büttger, Norbert Dankers, Jeroen Jansen, Marnix van Stralen, Gerald Millat, Marc Herlyn, Catharina J.M. Philippart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Intertidal blue mussel beds are important for the functioning and community composition of coastal ecosystems. Modeling spatial dynamics of intertidal mussel beds is complicated because suitable habitat is spatially heterogeneously distributed and recruitment and loss are hard to predict. To get insight into the main determinants of dispersion, growth and loss of intertidal mussel beds, we analyzed spatial distributions and growth patterns in the German and Dutch Wadden Sea. We considered yearly distributions of adult intertidal mussel beds from 36 connected tidal basins between 1999 and 2010 and for the period 1968-1976. We found that in both periods the highest coverage of tidal flats by mussel beds occurs in the sheltered basins in the southern Wadden Sea. We used a stochastic growth model to investigate the effects of density dependence, winter temperature and storminess on changes in mussel bed coverage between 1999 and 2010. In contrast to expectation, we found no evidence that cold winters consistently induced events of synchronous population growth, nor did we find strong evidence for increased removal of adult mussel beds after stormy winter seasons. However, we did find synchronic growth within groups of proximate tidal basins and that synchrony between distant groups is mainly low or negative. Because the boundaries between synchronic groups are located near river mouths and in areas lacking suitable mussel bed habitat, we suggest that the metapopulation is under the control of larval dispersal conditions. Our study demonstrates the importance of moving from simple habitat suitability models to models that incorporate metapopulation processes to understand spatial dynamics of mussel beds. The spatio-dynamic structure revealed in this paper will be instrumental for that purpose.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-566
JournalEcosystems
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Keywords

  • connectivity
  • dynamic ecosystem
  • Getis Ord statistic
  • habitat suitability
  • larvae
  • Mytilus edulis
  • population synchronization
  • spatial autocorrelation
  • spatial stability
  • supply side ecology

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