Blue mussels not yet the bellwether of NE coastal environment

The following information was released by Brown University:

PROVIDENCE, R.I.— Mussels could be the perfect ‘sentinel’ species to signal the health of coastal ecosystems. But a new study of blue mussels in estuary ecosystems along 600 kilometers of coastline in the Northeast uncovered three key mysteries that will have to be solved first.

Marcy Cockrell installs cages to protect mussels from predators. In Maine, mussels inside cages faired as well as mussels in the wild. In Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay it was a different story. Credit: Brown University

Marcy Cockrell installs cages to protect mussels from predators. In Maine, mussels inside cages faired as well as mussels in the wild. In Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay it was a different story. Credit: Brown University

Ecologists sometimes look to mussel species, a well-studied and foundational genus in estuaries, as model organisms for assessing the condition of coastal habitats, which are crucial for people and well as the broader environment.

But a new study in the journal Ecosphere suggests that the seemingly simple blue mussel, when studied on regional scale from Maine to Connecticut, harbors at least three specific mysteries that must be solved if the mollusks are to serve as the “canaries in the coal mine” of the Northeast coast.

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