Bioengineering promotes habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity on mussel reefs

Isabelle B. C. van der Ouderaa*, Jorn R. Claassen, Johan van de Koppel, Melanie J. Bishop, Britas Klemens Eriksson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Loss of biodiversity is among the most pressing global problems. Yet, despite its pertinent nature, the biological processes involved in the maintenance of biodiversity are poorly understood. Habitat heterogeneity is widely regarded as a key factor underpinning the biodiversity of land- and sea-scapes. However, it remains unclear how species coexist in many of those ecosystems that lack conspicuous heterogeneity. We demonstrate how spatially self-organized mussel reefs create microhabitats/heterogeneity that facilitate diverse invertebrate communities. By comparing seawater filled pools with open inlets in a mussel reef, we found that natural reef pools, emerging due to the habitat engineering of the mussels, strongly increased variation in organic enrichment and promoted beta-diversity compared to the surrounding tidal flat. These findings significantly extend the scale of influence typically described for self-organized habitats and highlight the importance of bioengineering and its positive effects on habitat heterogeneity and community diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151561
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat heterogeneity
  • Niche
  • Shellfish reef
  • Tidal pools
  • Self-organization


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