Selection of sites for successful restoration of impacted shellfish populations depends on understanding the dispersion capability and habitat requirements of the species involved. In Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, the horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus) biogenic reefs cover only a fraction of their historical range with the remaining reefs badly damaged and requiring restoration. Previous experimental trials suggest that translocation of horse mussels accelerates reef recovery and has therefore been proposed as a suitable restoration technique. We used a series of coupled hydrodynamic and particle dispersal models to assess larval dispersion from remnant and translocated populations to identify suitable areas for adult live M. modiolus translocation in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. A maximum entropy model (MAXENT) was used to identify if dispersing larvae could reach habitat suitable for adult M. modiolus. From these we predicted if translocated mussels will reseed themselves or be able to act as larval sources for nearby reefs. The dispersal models showed that the remnant M. modiolus populations are largely self-recruiting with little connectivity between them. The majority of larvae settled near the sources and movement was largely dependent on the tides and not influenced by wind or waves. Higher reef elevation resulted in larvae being able to disperse further away from the release point. However, larval numbers away from the source population are likely to be too low for successful recruitment. There was also little connectivity between the Irish Sea and Strangford Lough as any larvae entering the Lough remained predominantly in the Strangford Narrows. The areas covered by these self-seeding populations are suitable for M. modiolus translocation according to the MAXENT model. As a result of this work and in conjunction with other field work we propose a combination of total protection of all remaining larval sources and small scale translocations onto suitable substrata in each of the identified self-recruiting areas.
- Biogenic reefs;
- Biogenic reefs; Connectivity; Larval dispersal; Habitat restoration; Marine reserves; Modiolus modiolus