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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Differential effects of the severe winter of 1995/96 on the intertidal bivalves Mytilus edulis, Cerastoderma edule and Mya arenaria in the Northern Wadden Sea

  • Matthias Strasser,
  • Torsten Reinwald and
  • Karsten Reise
Helgoland Marine Research55:00079

Received: 24 May 2000

Accepted: 08 May 2001


Intertidal mussel beds were severely damaged by scouring ice floes during the winter of 1995/96. Aerial surveys before and after the winter showed that more clusters of mussel beds vanished in a region with a higher areal share of tidal flats and a lower salinity, suggesting that the amount of ice present determined the magnitude of the disturbance on beds of Mytilus edulis. Nehls and Thiel [(1993) Neth J Sea Res 31:181–187] observed a strikingly similar spatial pattern of disturbances caused by severe storms in the Wadden Sea. Areas on mussel beds mechanically undisturbed by ice showed no reduced abundance and biomass of mussels, indicating that temperature alone was of little importance as a lethal factor. Conversely, Cerastoderma edule was strongly affected by low temperature. On average 80% died during the winter with extinctions up to 100% in the high tidal zone. At the lowest tidal level, surviving cockles were larger than those killed by the frost. A reinvestigation of sampled sites in autumn revealed that substantial further mortality had occurred during spring and summer which may constitute a time-lag effect of the preceding winter. There was no increased mortality in juvenile and adult Mya arenaria during the winter of 1995/96, confirming that this clam is a hard-winter species like Macoma balthica.

Mytilus edulis Cerastoderma edule Mya arenaria Winter effects Wadden Sea