• Baltic Sea;
  • benthic pelagic coupling;
  • biotic interactions;
  • mutualistic


The importance of suspension-feeding mussels is particularly apparent in benthic communities; however, the role of this feeding strategy on the development of macroalgal and associated invertebrate communities is in general poorly known. The effect of suspension-feeding mussels Mytilus trossulus on benthic communities was studied in an in situ factorial field experiment in the Northern Baltic Sea over one ice-free season. The experiment was performed under different regimes of wave exposure (low and moderate) and on different sedimentary habitats (soft bottom with high organic content, soft bottom with low organic content, and hard bottom). In general the presence of mussels was associated with increased biomass of filamentous algae, herbivores and deposit feeders and decreased biomass of charophytes. The effect of M. trossulus interacted with the effect of exposure and substrate. Stronger responses were observed in moderately exposed than in sheltered areas. The presence of M. trossulus affected charophytes and deposit feeders on sand with low content of organic matter and filamentous algae on pebbles but not on other substrate types. The magnitude of the effects varied between months. The results suggest that (i) even in dynamic coastal systems the biodeposits and excretions of mussels are at least partly assimilated locally and are not flushed away to the open sea, (ii) the accumulation of faecal material induced elevated growth of deposit feeders, (iii) mussels enhanced the growth of ephemeral macroalgae and reduced the growth of perennial macroalgae, and (iv) together with increasing benthic primary production, mussels indirectly increase the production of herbivores.