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Impacts of sea star predation on mussel bed restoration

Wilcox, Mark, Jeffs, Andrew
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 189-197
Asteroidea, Perna canaliculus, adults, mortality, mussels, predation, remediation, risk, New Zealand
Predation by sea stars has the potential to cause elevated levels of mortality in reestablished populations of bivalves relative to levels of recruitment. Recent efforts to restore beds of the nearly extirpated green‐lipped mussel within the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand, resulted in high abundances of sea stars occupying those beds and it is unknown whether predation poses a potential limitation to the success of restoration in this bivalve species. The contribution of predation by sea stars to the mortality of mussels across four experimental mussel beds over a 2‐year period was estimated using data from regular assessments of sea star abundance and an experimentally determined consumption rate of sea stars upon mussels. In addition, the potential size selection of mussels by sea stars was assessed to determine if large sea stars selected for recent settlers. Sea stars' abundance within the mussel beds grew to an average of 0.57 sea stars/m² within 9 months, remaining at similar levels throughout the study. These predominantly large sea stars were estimated to have consumed 30.1% of the mussels over a 25‐month period, representing a contribution of 40.4% of the mussel mortality. Sea stars predominantly selected for larger mussels, and their predation likely contributes little to any lack in mussel recruitment. Sea star predation is clearly a limiting factor on the survival of transplanted adult mussels and the present study highlights the need to continually assess predation risk to determine if remediation is necessary for the persistence of the restored beds.