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Water Res. 2008 Mar;42(6-7):1664-74. Epub 2007 Oct 18.

Zebra mussel filtration and its potential uses in industrial water treatment.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is a notorious freshwater biofouling pest, and populations of the species can alter aquatic environments through their substantial filtration capabilities. Despite the ecological importance of zebra mussel filtration, many predictions of their large-scale effects on ecosystems rely on extrapolations from filtration rates obtained in static laboratory experiments, not accounting for natural mussel densities, boundary layer effects, flow rates or elevated algal concentrations. This study used large-scale industrial flume trials to investigate the influence of these factors on zebra mussel filtration and proposes some novel industrial applications of these findings. The flume trials revealed some of the highest zebra mussel clearance rates found to date, up to 574+/-20mlh(-1)g(-1) of wet tissue mass. Under low algal concentrations, chlorophyll a removal by zebra mussels was not proportional to mussel density, indicating that field rates of zebra mussel grazing may be much lower than previous studies have predicted. Increasing ambient velocities up to 100mls(-1) ( approximately 4cms(-1)) led to increased clearance rates by zebra mussels, possibly due to the replenishment of locally depleted resources, but higher velocities of 300mls(-1) (12cms(-1)) did not lead to further significant increases in clearance rate. When additional algal cultures were dosed into the flumes, chlorophyll a removal increased approximately logarithmically with zebra mussel density and there were no differences in the clearance of three different species of alga: Ankyra judayi, Pandorina morum and Cyclotella meneghinia. Some novel industrial uses of these zebra mussel filtration studies are proposed, such as: (1) helping to inform models that predict the large-scale grazing effects of the mussels, (2) allowing estimates of zebra mussel densities in industrial pipelines, and (3) constructing large-scale biofilters for use in water clarification.

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