Ribbed Mussels and Salt Marsh Restoration: Linking Population Dynamics to Ecosystem Services

EPA Grant Number: U916219
Title: Ribbed Mussels and Salt Marsh Restoration: Linking Population Dynamics to Ecosystem Services
Investigators: Allen, Joseph B.
Institution: The State University of New York at Stony Brook
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $86,796
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecosystems , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems


Geukensia demissa, the ribbed mussel, is a key salt marsh species that interacts strongly with the dominant marsh vegetation, Spartina alterniflora. I plan to identify how important population parameters of Geukensia vary as a function of habitat conditions, relate those changes to the potential for mussel population increase, and assess subsequent beneficial effects to Spartina restoration. The objectives of this research project are to: (1) quantify Geukensia larval supply and settlement in multiple mid-Atlantic marshes and correlate these variables with corresponding adult population sizes; (2) determine how variability in Geukensia larval supply and settlement and juvenile survival and growth within a single salt marsh affects patterns of mussel recruitment; and (3) assess experimentally the effects of adult mussels on juvenile mussel recruitment and plant survival, growth, and reproduction in patches of transplanted Spartina.


Salt marshes provide a variety of ecosystem services that include primary production, filtration of land runoff, sediment stabilization, and nursery habitat for many commercially important fisheries species. Salt marsh habitat is consequently protected under the U.S. Coastal Zone Management Act and the Clean Water Act, which mandate mitigation for wetlands damaged or destroyed by human activities. Although the importance of both protecting and restoring salt marsh habitat is recognized, the success of such activities will depend on how well we understand the ecological processes that control salt marsh community organization and function. My research will provide the first detailed assessment of the relative importance of settlement versus postsettlement processes to population dynamics of G. demissa and a mechanistic understanding of how Geukensia interacts with Spartina in the context of marsh restoration.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, salt marsh, salt marsh species, ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa, population dynamics, salt marsh restoration, Spartina alterniflora, salt marsh habitat.

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 144KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final