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Flow interactions with blue mussel patches: hydrodynamic and ecological implications

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date19/12/2016
<mark>Original language</mark>English
Event11th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics - Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 7/02/201612/02/2016


Conference11th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics
Abbreviated title11th ISE


In soft substrate inter-tidal and shallow sub-tidal environments, blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) form raised beds of enhanced surface roughness. These beds are rarely homogeneous and may be fractal in spatial structure, or organised into patches or stripes. In any case, the presence of multiple boundaries between regions occupied by mussels and regions of bare substrate are a common aspect of mussel beds. This spatial structure is thought to enable a balance to be achieved between the opposing controls of stress protection and food limitation. Both of these controls are governed strongly by the interaction of the mussels’ spatial distribution with hydrodynamics, about which little is known. We address this knowledge gap. Specifically, we studied the effects of mussel patch density (mussels per unit area) and incident mean flow speed on the flow fields over and downstream of mussel patches via laboratory flume experiments. Velocity profiles were measured at several along-flume locations in each run, from which several hydrodynamic parameters were calculated. We found that mussel density is a strong determinant of flow structure over and downstream of mussel patches. As the incident flow passes over a patch, its vertical profile adjusts to the new, raised and roughened bed conditions. A second such adjustment occurs as the flow leaves the patch and re-finds the downstream bed. Turbulent energy is generated primarily at these adjustments to new bed conditions, and was enhanced by increased mussel density to a greater-than-linearly-proportional extent. This implies that there is advantage to higher density patches, in that they increase turbulent energy, enabling food to be mixed downwards to the mussels to an extent greater than the increased amount of mussels, so the amount of food per mussel increases.