Selected Article


Enhanced erodibility of fine-grained marine sediments by Hydrobia ulvae


The common mud snail Hydrobia ulvae is a widespread and dominant deposit feeder on fine-grained substrata along the European Atlantic coastline. Previous studies have shown that mud snail activities such as grazing, faecal pellet production and mucous production may influence physical properties of the surface sediment layer and thus depositional and erosional processes. To quantify the influence of Hydrobia density on key parameters such as erosion threshold and erosion rate, a short-term laboratory experiment was conducted. Snails were placed on fine-grained sediment at densities of 10000 and 50000 ind m-2 and erosion experiments were carried out one, three and five days after establishment of the sediment beds. Controls without H. ulvae were treated the same way. The presence of H. ulvae significantly increased the erosion rate and decreased the erosion threshold compared to snail-free control plots. The erosion rate was increased by a factor of 2 to 4 when H. ulvae were present and showed stronger influence by the snail than the erosion threshold. Snail density did not affect the erosion threshold, but the erosion rate doubled with an increase in density from 10000 to 50000 ind m-2. The erosion rate was only marginally different after one day but the difference increased over time and the erosion rate was significantly different for all treatments after five days. No significant time dependence was observed for the erosion threshold. The results generally confirm results obtained in situ and differences can be related to different hydrodynamic conditions under field and laboratory conditions.