In situ characterization of benthic fluxes and denitrification efficiency in a newly re-established mussel farm

Astrid Hylén*, Daniel Taylor, Mikhail Kononets, Mats Lindegarth, Anna Stedt, Stefano Bonaglia, Per Bergström

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mussel farming has been proposed as a mechanism to mitigate eutrophication in coastal waters. However, localizing the intensive filtration of organic matter by mussels can cause a concomitant enrichment of organic matter in sediments below farms, which may influence biogeochemical processes and fates of nutrients in the system. In the context of mitigating eutrophication, it is important to quantify sedimentary changes induced at early life stages of mussel farms. Accordingly, this study investigated how a newly re-established mussel farm affected sedimentation rates, sediment characteristics, sediment-water solute fluxes and nitrate (NO3) reduction rates (measured in situ) during the first year of production. Sedimentation rates were enhanced at the farm relative to a reference station, and both organic and inorganic carbon accumulated in the sediment with time. Increased organic matter input likely drove the slightly elevated sedimentary effluxes of ammonium (NH4+) and dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) in the farm. Denitrification was the main NO3 reduction process, however, there was a relative increase in the remobilization of bioavailable nitrogen underneath the farm as dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) rates were enhanced by >200% and the denitrification efficiency was 49% lower compared to the reference station. The sedimentary methane (CH4) release tended to be higher at the farm, but fluxes were not significantly different from reference conditions. Low sedimentary pigment concentrations indicated a reduced presence of benthic microalgae at the farm, which likely influenced sediment-water solute fluxes. Over the production cycle, the release of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and DIP underneath the farm were respectively 426% and 510% relative to reference conditions. Impacts of the mussel farm were thus measurable already during the first year of establishment. These immediate changes to the sediment biogeochemistry, as well as long-term effects, should be considered when estimating the environmental impact of mussel aquaculture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146853
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sediment
  • Eutrophication
  • Nutrients
  • Carbon
  • Aquaculture
  • Mitigation


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