Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Coastal communities increasingly invest in natural and nature-based features (e.g., living shorelines) as a strategy to protect shorelines and enhance coastal resilience. Tidal marshes are a common component of these strategies because of their capacity to reduce wave energy and storm surge impacts. Performance metrics of restoration success for living shorelines tend to focus on how the physical structure of the created marsh enhances shoreline protection via proper elevation and marsh plant presence. These metrics do not fully evaluate the level of marsh ecosystem development. In particular, the presence of key marsh bivalve species can indicate the capability of the marsh to provide non-protective services of value, such as water quality improvement and habitat provision. We observed an unexpected low to no abundance of the filter-feeding ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa, in living shoreline marshes throughout Chesapeake Bay. In salt marsh ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, ribbed mussels improve water quality, enhance nutrient removal, stabilize the marsh, and facilitate long-term sustainability of the habitat. Through comparative field surveys and experiments within a chronosequence of 13 living shorelines spanning 2–16 years since construction, we examined three factors we hypothesized may influence recruitment of ribbed mussels to living shoreline marshes: (1) larval access to suitable marsh habitat, (2) sediment quality of low marsh (i.e., potential mussel habitat), and (3) availability of high-quality refuge habitat. Our findings suggest that at most sites larval mussels are able to access and settle on living shoreline created marshes behind rock sill structures, but that most recruits are likely not surviving. Sediment organic matter (OM) and plant density were correlated with mussel abundance, and sediment OM increased with marsh age, suggesting that living shoreline design (e.g., sand fill, planting grids) and lags in ecosystem development (sediment properties) are reducing the survival of the young recruits. We offer potential modifications to living shoreline design and implementation practices that may facilitate self-sustaining ribbed mussel populations in these restored habitats.
doi: 10.1002/ ecs2.3402
Chesapeake Bay; ecological engineering; ecosystem services; Geukensia demissa; living shorelines; ribbed mussel
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Bilkovic, Donna Marie; Isdell, Robert; Guthrie, Amanda G.; Mitchell, Molly; and Chambers, Randolph M., Ribbed mussel Geukensia demissa population response to living shoreline design and ecosystem development (2021). Ecosphere, 12(3), e03402.
doi: 10.1002/ ecs2.3402