Dislodgement and mortality challenges when restoring shallow mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) in a Danish estuary

Timi L. Banke*, Rune C. Steinfurth, Troels Lange, Paula Canal‐Vergés, Niels Svane, Mogens R. Flindt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In recent decades, mussel beds in the northern Atlantic and Scandinavia have declined rapidly in extent due to anthropogenic impacts, similar to many other marine habitats. In this study, a large-scale restoration experiment was conducted to identify major challenges that arise during restoration efforts on shallow subtidal mussel beds. Suspension-grown mussels (Mytilus edulis) were relayed in two different treatments either directly on bare bottom sandy sediments, or on coir nets (Net), used as a proxy for suitable byssal attachment substrate. The treatments were monitored for 1.5 years and coverage (%), biomass (WW), and population dynamics were quantified. Two main challenges of shallow bed restoration were identified: (1) Lack of suitable attachment substrate resulting in dislodgment of individuals during storm events. The Net treatment had significantly higher coverage and biomass of Mytilus at the end of the monitoring period, clearly demonstrating the importance of suitable substrate at physically exposed locations. (2) High mortality of juvenile mussels. Population dynamics revealed a high mortality of juvenile Mytilus, which resulted in almost complete loss of relayed Mytilus individuals less than 30 mm within the first season. This was most likely due to high meso-predator densities, as a result of declining top-predator populations. The high mortality of juvenile Mytilus prevented successful annual recruitment, thereby making the population unsustainable long-term. Both challenges need to be addressed to create stable beds during restoration. Additionally, the experiment demonstrated the viability of using suspension-grown Mytilus as a seed-source when restoring mussel beds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRestoration Ecology
Number of pages13
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17. Apr 2024

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