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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Microbial biomass and activity in the vicinity of a mussel bed built up by the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

  • T. Stoeck and
  • B. P. Albers
Helgoland Marine Research54:00540039.10152


Our study focuses on the impact of the biosedimentary system mussel bed (Mytilus edulis) on the spatial variability of benthic microbial biomass and activity in relation to organic deposits. We sampled a transect of six stations from the muddy mussel bed towards a reference station in the sandflat in monthly intervals for 1 year. The sediment grain size fraction <63 µm and the total organic carbon (TOC) concentration decreased significantly towards the sandflat. Bacterial numbers and total microbial biomass (total adenylates) showed a high spatial variability and were not correlated to increasing distance from the mussel bed. However, a significant relationship with the TOC concentration was found. In contrast, the energetic status (adenylate energy charge) of the microbial community in the mussel bed was significantly lower than in the sandflat. A principal component analysis of the substrate-utilization pattern revealed clear differences between the microbial communities in the mussel bed and in the sandflat. Our results indicate that the sandflat may be dominated by a relatively specialized benthic microbial community with an increased efficiency in utilizing organic carbon sources. As a disadvantage, however, such r-strategists are only able to meet environmental changes within a comparatively narrow range. Benthic microbial communities in the vicinity of an M. edulis mussel bed, in contrast, are dominated by relative generalists with a greater physiological capacity to buffer discrete environmental changes. Such K-strategists show a lack of specialization which generally means a reduced efficiency in utilizing a particular resource.

Key words Benthic microbial biomass and activityBiodepositionMytilus edulisr-/K-strategyWadden Sea