These animals can help remove excess nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus from water, thus acting as natural depollution elements.
Scientists and activists advocate the use of mussels as natural decontamination agents, thereby exploiting the ability of molluscs to filter out excess nutrients, the so-called eutrophication.
According to an article published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, ribbed mussels (Geukensia demissa), natives of the Atlantic coast of North America, can help remove excess nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus from the water.
Thus, these nutrients concentrated in rivers and estuaries due to human activity, can lead to the formation of true algae forests that in turn consume dissolved oxygen in the water, to the point of making it impossible to survive other types of aquatic life.
There are already many studies focused on preventing the appearance of algae, the work published this week, gives special attention to the removal of these nutrients and advances the ability to filter the mussels as the best solution.
In order to test the ability of ribbed mussels, which live half-buried in the bottom mud and not clinging to rocks, in June 2011 the research team put a type of raft with mussels in an estuary near an industrial area, near New York, in the United States.
The next spring the raft was collected and the mussels were studied and the analysis concluded that the bivalves were healthy and had a large amount of a local nitrogen isotope indicating that they removed the nitrogen from the water.
Thus, based on the study, researchers estimate that a mussel raft can filter a daily average of 11 million liters of water, remove about 150 pounds of particles from the water such as dust and soot and about 60 pounds of nitrogen.