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Mass mortalities in bivalve populations: A review of the edible cockle Cerastoderma edule (L.)

Burdon, Daryl; Callaway, Ruth; Elliott, Michael; Smith, Tim; Wither, Andrew


Daryl Burdon

Ruth Callaway

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Tim Smith

Andrew Wither


Mass mortalities in bivalve populations have long been of particular concern, especially when the species supports a commercial fishery or is of conservation interest. Here we consider the evidence of mass mortalities of the edible cockle, Cerastoderma edule (L.). Through the construction of a conceptual model eight potential factors (or groups of factors) which may cause mass mortalities are identified and reviewed. These include: food limitation; density; oxygen depletion and organic loadings; temperature and salinity; parasites, pathogens and commensals; toxicants and other persistent pollutants; predation, and changes in sediment, suspended solids, topography and bathymetry. The interplay between factors in recognized and discussed based on evidence mainly from the published literature relating to temperate edible cockle beds. Anecdotal evidence is also reported from a structured survey of site-specific evidence provided by fisheries managers in England and Wales. Case studies from the UK and Europe indicate that there is often no single, clear generic cause of mass mortalities in cockle populations. The importance of linked site-specific scientific investigations and laboratory-based experiments to fill the gaps in our current understanding of mass mortalities in bivalve species is highlighted as necessary to take account of both local extrinsic and intrinsic factors.


Burdon, D., Callaway, R., Elliott, M., Smith, T., & Wither, A. (2014). Mass mortalities in bivalve populations: A review of the edible cockle Cerastoderma edule (L.). Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 150(Part B), 271-280.

Acceptance Date Apr 19, 2014
Online Publication Date Apr 28, 2014
Publication Date Oct 5, 2014
Deposit Date May 6, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 6, 2015
Journal Estuarine, coastal and shelf science
Print ISSN 0272-7714
Electronic ISSN 1096-0015
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 150
Issue Part B
Pages 271-280
Keywords Mass mortalities; Bivalve populations; Conceptual model; Cerastoderma edule; Edible cockle; Shellfisheries management
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Additional Information This is the Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article which has been published in Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 2014, v.150 at:


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