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The demographics and morphometries of biogenic reefs: important considerations in conservation management

  • Jenna M. Brash (a1) (a2), Robert L. Cook (a1), Clara L. Mackenzie (a1) and William G. Sanderson (a1) (a3)

Modiolus modiolus L. (horse mussel) reefs are a priority marine habitat of high conservation value that is currently listed as endangered and/or threatened across its European distribution. Population structure, density or shell morphology may influence the biodiversity of a reef, either directly or indirectly. Thus, such metrics are important considerations for successful conservation management of these biodiversity hotspots. Population structure, shell morphology and growth rates were examined in M. modiolus reefs across the UK range of the habitat to examine differences between key populations, including those near the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales (southern range), off Port Appin in Western Scotland (mid-range) and in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles, Scotland (northern range). Additionally, the influence of physical conditions (temperature and tidal flow) to growth rate and predicted maximum shell length for each population was examined. Growth rates were determined using acetate peels of sectioned shells. Lower juvenile abundance was observed in Scapa Flow. Small, narrow-shaped shells were found to be characteristic of North Lleyn mussels, and larger, globular-shaped shells were characteristic of mussels in Scapa Flow and off Port Appin. Mussels in Scapa Flow were slower growing, yet reached a longer asymptotic length (L) than mussels of Port Appin and North Lleyn. Growth curves from sites within this study were analysed with other published data. A trend of higher L at higher latitudes and at lower flow rates was observed. Variations in growth and age are discussed in relation to flow regimes, connectivity to other reefs, density and latitude.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: J.M. Brash, Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, School of Life Science, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK email:
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