Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Marine Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Keith Walters


Reciprocal facilitation between Geukensia demissa, ribbed mussels, and Sporobolus alterniflorus, cordgrass, has a positive effect on salt marsh ecosystems. Mussel clusters enhance cordgrass growth and drought resistance and cordgrass provides attachment and shade for mussel aggregations. Along with benefits for both mussels and cordgrass, the mutualism facilitates increased biodiversity and shoreline stabilization and enhances marsh ecosystem functions. Aspects of mussel patch configuration including cluster size, perimeter and connectivity modulate the reciprocal facilitation effects of cordgrass and mussels on marsh ecosystems. In a northern South Carolina marsh system, mussel patch configuration positively influenced cordgrass biomass. Predation affected mussel patch configuration (e.g., cluster size), and patch configuration affected predation (e.g., mussel mortality). The effects of predation on mussel patch configuration and potential cascading effects on cordgrass biomass facilitation were examined in a field experiment varying predation (caged = no predation, uncaged = predation) and cluster size (0 to 240 m-2). Results from the 2 mo. experiment conducted in a mid-marsh elevation indicated no interaction between mussel mortality from predation and facilitation of cordgrass biomass. However, initial mussel cluster size positively affected cordgrass biomass. Predation effects on mussel patch configuration and potential cascading effects on cordgrass biomass within mid-marsh elevations apparently are not short-term, occurring over a few months, but may be more pronounced over longer periods (years) and/or in marsh elevations (low-marsh) more exposed to predators.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.