Biodiversity & Conservation

Macoma balthica and Abra alba in infralittoral muddy sand or mud


<i>%Macoma balthica%</i> and <i>%Abra alba%</i> in infralittoral muddy sand or mud
Distribution map

SS.IMS.FaMS.MacAbr recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats

Species indicative of sensitivity

To assess the sensitivity of the biotope, the sensitivity of component species is reviewed. Those species that are considered to be particularly indicative of the sensitivity of the biotope, and for which research has been undertaken in detail are shown below (see selection criteria). The biology of other component species of the biotope is also taken into account wherever information is known to the researcher.

Community Importance Species name Common Name
Key functional Macoma balthica Baltic tellin
Key functional Abra alba A bivalve mollusc
Important functional Fabulina fabula A bivalve
Important functional Echinocardium cordatum Sea potato
Important characterizing Lagis koreni A bristleworm
Important characterizing Nephtys hombergii A catworm
Important other Crangon crangon Brown shrimp


The bivalves Macoma balthica and Abra alba are particularly characteristic of the biotope but owing to their deposit feeding activity and the densities at which they may occur (> 1000 per m²) these species have been given key functional status. The manner in which such bivalves intensively rework the uppermost few centimetres of the sediment produces a fluid faecal-rich layer, the physical instability of which tends to inhibit the development of a benthic suspension feeding community or relatively sessile epifauna (see review by Rhoads & Young, 1970). Consequently, the feeding activity of the bivalves maintains community structure and function. Other infaunal burrowing species such as Echinocardium cordatum are considered to be important functional species because their deeper burrows enhance the oxygenation of the substratum and enhance the survival of a variety of small species (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). The presence of the polychaete Lagis koreni is considered important for the classification of the biotope. The brown shrimp, Crangon crangon is an important other species, whilst it may not be highly faithful to the biotope, its presence does however affect the sensitivity of the biotope as it is the target of a commercial fishery.

Additional information

No text entered

This review can be cited as follows:

Budd, G.C. 2007. Macoma balthica and Abra alba in infralittoral muddy sand or mud. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 27/11/2015]. Available from: <>