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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Depth-related spatial patterns of sublittoral blue mussel beds and their associated macrofaunal diversity revealed by geostatistical analyses

Diaz ER, Erlandsson J, Westerbom M, Kraufvelin P


The blue mussel Mytilus edulis is a foundation species with ecosystem engineering functions in the brackish, non-tidal Baltic Sea. In this study from the western Gulf of Finland, the relationship between the spatial patchiness of blue mussels and the diversity of associated macrofauna was examined across small scales (centimeters to meters) for the first time in subtidal habitats. It was demonstrated using geostatistical tools that blue mussel abundance and the diversity of associated macrofauna varied and interacted at 2 depths. Classic analyses (ANOVAs, correlations and multivariate techniques) detected no relationships between the abundance of blue mussels and their associated macrofaunal diversity, or differences in the abundance of mussels or the diversity of associated macrofauna between depths. Using semivariograms, differences in spatial heterogeneity between depths emerged: i.e. patchiness at 5 m and random patterns at 8 m depth. Cross-semivariograms detected negative spatial co-variation between blue mussel abundance and diversity of macrofauna at 5 m, but positive and neutral spatial relationships at 8 m depth. Combining the approaches suggested that high dislodgment of mussels in shallow environments causes this pattern. Dislodgement effects may be compensated for by increased turnover of small mussels in patches within mussel beds, which would result in reduced habitat space for associated macrofauna. On the basis of our results, it is suggested that patchiness of a foundation species is an ecological response, or result of a disturbance, that reduces the diversity of the associated macrofaunal community.


Foundation species; Blue mussels; Baltic Sea; Biodiversity; Fractal dimension; Semivariogram; Cross-semivariogram; Spatial heterogeneity

Published in

Marine Ecology Progress Series
2015, Volume: 540, pages: 121-134
Publisher: Inter Research

      Sustainable Development Goals

      Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

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