In this project experimental studies are carried out to gain process-based knowledge in how spatial heterogeneity in the mussel bed environment affects growth & survival
The overall project is lead by Wageningen Marine Research (former IMARES), with whom NIOZ, Deltares, HZ University of Applied Sciences and MOI will closely collaborate. Within the overall project, the aim is to obtain fundamental insights in mussel-bed functioning, and thereby provide a knowledge base for further optimization of mussel bottom culture techniques on culture plots at the Wadden Sea and Eastern Scheldt.
In the NIOZ sub-project, we will study how the relationship between (1) heterogeneity of the mussel bed environment (e.g. hydrodynamics, food) and (2) heterogeneity of mussels will affect the growth and the survival of individual mussels in the bed. This is challenging, as at the scale of a mussel bed, there is inherent heterogeneity imposed by the environment, on which the mussels impose additional heterogeneity in how they are distributed. Furthermore, factors that determine growth (e.g. food quality & quantity) and survival (e.g. predators, dislodgement risk) are highly variable on spatial and on temporal scale. The aim of the research is to unravel how local effects of losses and growth on mussel productivity can be separated. Results will be used to optimize mussel culture techniques, as how to increase growth and survival by manipulating mussel distribution and density.
The methods to be used vary from hydrodynamic measurements to characterize the physical environment, mussel dispersal measurements, automated continuous measurements on the feeding activity of mussels, manipulative field experiments on pattern formation and field-flume studies.