MEPS 289:79-88 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps289079

Physical controls of food supply to benthic filter feeders in the Menai Strait, UK

J. F. Tweddle1,2, J. H. Simpson1,*, C. D. Janzen1,3

1School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
2Present address: Southampton Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
3Present address: School of Marine Sciences, 5741 Libby Hall, Room 214, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We report herein a study of the role of hydrodynamics in controlling the food supply to benthic filter feeders in the Menai Strait, a narrow channel between the island of Anglesey and north Wales, UK, which is tidally energetic with pronounced residual flow (~350 to 800 m3 s–1). A comparison between the cycle of chlorophyll concentrations in water above an extensive, commercially-exploited, mussel bed (Mytilus edulis L.) and the corresponding cycle over a control site showed clear evidence of the influence of horizontal tidal advection on food supply. Consumption of phytoplankton by filtration over the mussel bed reduced concentrations and resulted in a pronounced horizontal gradient (~4.4 × 10–4 µg l–1 m–1). Losses to filtration appeared to be compensated through transport of plankton-rich water into the strait by the large residual flow while advection of the gradient by the tidal current resulted in large oscillations in chlorophyll a (chl a) concentration, with an amplitude of ~50% of the mean. An analytical model of advection and consumption reproduced these features of the observed chl a cycle over the mussel bed. The strong tidal flow maintained a high level of turbulence, so that the water column was generally well mixed vertically. Depletion of phytoplankton in the bottom boundary layer was, therefore, not present for most of the tidal cycle but on 2 occasions, when the observed Reynolds stress was close to zero at slack water, we did observe significant depletion by up to ~2 µg l–1 at 1 m above the bed. This depletion is interpreted as the effect of mussel feeding briefly out-competing the supply of phytoplankton by vertical diffusion for the period of low turbulence. Assuming a steady state, we estimated the total supply of phytoplankton imported into the strait (~9.0 t C d–1) and the amount consumed by filter feeders in the area of the mussel bed (~4.5 t C d–1).

KEY WORDS: Concentration boundary layer · Turbulent transport · Mytilus edulis · Menai Strait · Residual flow · Mussel nutrition

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