Model development to assess carbon fluxes during shell formation in blue mussels

In order to quantify the amount of carbonate, precipitated as calcium-carbonate in the shells of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) in a temperate climate, an existing Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model for the blue mussel was adapted by separating shell growth from soft tissue growth. Hereby, two parameters were added to the original DEB-model, a calcification cost [J/mgCaCO3] and an energy allocation fraction [-], which resulted in the energy allocated for structural growth being divided between shell and meat growth. As values for these new parameters were lacking, they were calibrated by fitting the model to field data. Calibration results showed that an Energy allocation fraction of 0.5 and a calcification cost of 0.9 J/mgCaCO3, resulted in the best fit when fitted on 2017 and 2018 field data separately. These values however, show the best fit for data obtained within the first couple of years of the shellfish life, and do not take later years into account. Also it could be discussed that some parameters vary throughout the lifespan of the species. The results were compared to a regular DEB model, where the shell output was calculated through a simple allometric relationship. It is sometimes assumed that the carbon storage in shell material as calcium carbonate could be regarded as a form of carbon sequestration, with a positive impact on the atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, studies on the physical-chemical processes related to shell formation have shown that from an oceanographic perspective, shell formation should be regarded as a source of atmospheric CO2 rather than a sink. The removal of carbonates, through the biocalcification process, reduces the buffer capacity (alkalinity) of the water to store CO2. As a result CO2 is released from the water to the atmosphere when shell material is formed. The actual amount of CO2 that escapes from the water to the atmosphere as a result of biocalcification depends strongly on local water characteristics. In this study, the effect of calcification by mussels on the CO2 flux to the atmosphere is studied using an adapted DEB model where energy costs of calcification are modelled explicitly. The model was subsequently run under two future climate scenarios, (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.3) with elevated temperature and decreased pH, and the total released CO2 as a result of shell formation was calculated with the SeaCarb model. This showed growth of mussels, under future climate conditions to be slower, and with that the cumulative shell mass and carbonate precipitated to CaCO3 to decrease. Yet the amount of CO2 released, due to biocalcification, increased. This is due to the fact that the amount of CO2 released/gr of CaCO3 precipitated will be higher, as a result of the decreased buffering capacity of seawater under future climatic environmental conditions.

In summary the conclusions of the project were:

  • Biocalcification (shell formation) of marine organisms, such as bivalves, cannot be regarded as a process resulting in negative CO2 emission to the atmosphere;
  • The actual amount of CO2 that, due to biocalcification, is released from the water to the atmosphere depends on the physicochemical characteristics of the water, which are influenced by (future) climate conditions;
  • Our first model calculations suggest that at future climate conditions mussel’s grow rate will be somewhat reduced. While the amount of CO2 that due to biocalcification, escapes to the atmosphere during its life-time will slightly increase. Making the ratio of g CO2 release/g CaCO3 precipitated slightly higher;
  • Our model calculations should be considered an exercise rather than a definite prediction of how mussels will respond to future climate scenarios. Additional information/experimentation is strongly needed to validate the model settings, and to test the validity of the above mentioned outcome of the model.

Hamer A. & Foekema E., 2023. Model development to assess carbon fluxes during shell formation in blue mussels. Report C005/23, Wageningen University & Research. Report.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: