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Approaches for evaluating the effects of bivalve filter feeding on nutrient dynamics in Puget Sound, Washington

January 24, 2014

Marine bivalves such as clams, mussels, and oysters are an important component of the food web, which influence nutrient dynamics and water quality in many estuaries. The role of bivalves in nutrient dynamics and, particularly, the contribution of commercial shellfish activities, are not well understood in Puget Sound, Washington. Numerous approaches have been used in other estuaries to quantify the effects of bivalves on nutrient dynamics, ranging from simple nutrient budgeting to sophisticated numerical models that account for tidal circulation, bioenergetic fluxes through food webs, and biochemical transformations in the water column and sediment. For nutrient management in Puget Sound, it might be possible to integrate basic biophysical indicators (residence time, phytoplankton growth rates, and clearance rates of filter feeders) as a screening tool to identify places where nutrient dynamics and water quality are likely to be sensitive to shellfish density and, then, apply more sophisticated methods involving in-situ measurements and simulation models to quantify those dynamics.