MEPS 194:193-201 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps194193

In situ determination of PCB biodeposition by Mytilus edulis in a Baltic coastal ecosystem

Mikael Björk1,*, Michael Gilek1, Nils Kautsky1, Carina Näf2

1Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2Institute of Applied Environmental Research (ITM), Laboratory for Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: Biodeposits of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis and pelagic and near-bed settling particulate matter were collected in situ over a 1 yr period in a coastal area of the Northern Baltic proper. The amounts of carbon and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the collected biodeposits were compared to those in pelagic and near-bed settling material and rates of carbon and PCB biodeposition by mussels were estimated. The filter-feeding activity and subsequent release of faecal matter by the mussels increased gross sedimentation of carbon to benthos by 45% if compared to areas with no mussels. By selectively feeding on particles rich in organic carbon the mussels also concentrated associated contaminants and thereby increased gross sedimentation of PCBs by 50%. This suggests that mussel biodeposition will enhance the availability of PCBs to benthic deposit feeders living in or in the vicinity of mussel beds. Extrapolation of the experimental results to the total Swedish coastal zone of the Baltic proper indicates that mussel biodeposition is responsible for a significant part of PCB net sedimentation, i.e. 17% or 96 kg yr-1. Consequently, even when seen from a large geographical scale, mussels are important modifiers of PCB cycling by directing considerable amounts of PCBs towards the benthic food web and thereby influencing the retention time of these and probably many other contaminants in the coastal zone. It is also likely that changes in mussel biomass, for example owing to shifts in primary production or salinity, will markedly affect the transport and fate of contaminants in the Baltic Sea.

KEY WORDS: Mytilus edulis · Biodeposition · Contaminant fate · Sedimentation · Organic carbon · Suspension feeding

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