Nutrient extraction and ecosystem impact by suspended mussel mitigation cultures at two contrasting sites

Marie Maar*, Janus Larsen, Vibe Schourup-Kristensen, Daniel Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mussel mitigation culture is increasingly recognized as a tool to extract nutrients from eutrophic systems by harvesting mussel biomass and nutrients contained therein. The net effect of mussel production on the nutrient cycling in the ecosystem is, however, not straightforward due to the interaction with physical- and biogeochemical processes regulating ecosystem functioning. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the potential of using mussel culture as a tool to mitigate eutrophication at two contrasting sites: a semi-enclosed fjord and a coastal bay. We applied a 3D coupled hydrodynamic-biogeochemical-sediment model combined with a mussel eco-physiological model. The model was validated against monitoring data and research field data on mussel growth, sediment impacts, and particle depletion from a pilot mussel farm in the study area. Model scenarios with intensified mussel farming in the fjord and/or the bay were conducted. The results showed that mussel mitigation culture still has a high net N-extraction when including ecosystem effects, such as changes in biodeposition, nutrient retention, denitrification, and sediment nutrient fluxes in the model. Mussel farms located in the fjord were more effective in directly addressing excess nutrients and improving water quality due to the relative vicinity to primary nutrient sources (riparian) and physical characteristics of the fjord system. The results will be important to consider in other systems concerning site selection, development of bivalve aquaculture, and associated sampling strategies for monitoring the farming impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number164168
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Low-trophic aquaculture
  • Eutrophication
  • Ecosystem model
  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Coastal waters
  • Marine ecology


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