Nutrient extraction through bivalves

Jens Kjerulf Petersen, Marianne Holmer, Mette Termansen, Berit Hasler

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Ecosystem services provided by marine bivalves in relation to nutrient extraction from the coastal environment have gained increased attention to mitigate adverse effects of excess nutrient loading from human activities, such as agriculture and sewage discharge. These activities damage coastal ecosystems and require action from local, regional, and national environmental management. Marine bivalves filter particles like phytoplankton, thereby transforming particulate organic matter into bivalve tissue or larger faecal pellets that are transferred to the benthos. Nutrient extraction from the coastal environment takes place through two different pathways: (i) harvest/removal of the bivalves – thereby returning nutrients back to land; or (ii) through increased denitrification in proximity to dense bivalve aggregations, leading to loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere. Active use of marine bivalves for nutrient extraction may include a number of secondary effects on the ecosystem, such as filtration of particulate material. This leads to partial transformation of particulate-bound nutrients into dissolved nutrients via bivalve excretion or enhanced mineralization of faecal material. In this chapter, concepts in relation to nutrient extraction by bivalves are presented and discussed in relation to nutrient cycling and additional effects of enhancing bivalve communities. In addition, methods to valorise nutrient extraction by bivalves are evaluated. Examples of calculations of the value of nutrient extraction by bivalves are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGoods and Services of Marine Bivalves
EditorsA. C. Smaal, J. G. Ferreira, J. Grant, J. K. Petersen, Ø. Strand
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-96776-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Mitigation
  • Bivalve farming
  • Denitrification
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Economic valuation
  • Abatement policies


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