It is not known whether and by what factors spatial heterogeneity in mussels (Mytilus edulis L.) affects mussel production in human-created mussel beds. In a field experiment, the same number of mussels was relayed on four different areas within plots of the same size, resulting in four treatments with different mussel densities. Density, individual weight and spatial structure of mussels were followed per treatment. The uniformly placed mussels on different areas redistributed into new patches, but mussels did not spread out over a larger area. Initial mussel density affected redistribution and mussel survival. At high densities mussels redistributed into a uniform matrix or in a few larger patches, that showed larger losses than at low densities, where mussels redistributed into a high number of patches. Growth rate and condition index of the mussels did not differ between treatments and no relation was found between treatment and number of foraging shore crabs, which was the major predator of mussels in this experiment. We hypothesise that the relation between initial mussel density and mussel loss after relaying is associated with redistribution, with less competition for space when mussels are positioned at the edge of a mussel patch. The very high mussel losses that we observed in the experiment within four weeks after relaying were the major factor in biomass development. Mussel bed formation concerns mussel growers and managers involved in natural mussel bed restoration. Initial mussel survival determines the success of these activities. The present study shows the effects of mussel relaying on spatial redistribution for the first time under field conditions, and underlines the importance of edge effects in understanding mussel loss in redistribution. Mussel survival after relaying will be higher when the mussels are distributed homogeneously and in relatively low density.
- mytilus-edulis l.
- oystercatchers haematopus ostralegus
- fractal geometry
- wadden sea