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Freshwater Mussels: Engineering Ecosystems One Shell at a Time

(Released August 2011 2011)

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  by Natalie Abram  

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Future of Freshwater Mussel Populations

Contents

Mussel Propogation
Propagation of Carolina Heelsplitter (Lasmigona decorata), YouTube

“Since 1900, 123 freshwater animal species have been recorded as extinct in North America” (Ricciardi and Rasmussen 1220). That statistic represents an alarm for the future populations of freshwater mussels. Many action plans are in place to assist with assessing and promoting mussel populations. Scientists have successful laboratory propagation techniques for restoring some species’ populations. While other agencies are tackling the habitat loss, water pollution control and monitoring, and ecosystem improvement, human residents are taking more of an interest and demanding conservation. One way to accomplish that is to undergo natural restoration of impaired systems (Strayer et al 436). Of course, it will take years to generate more recruitment of mussels.

Stop Zebra Mussels Sign
Boating sign at Lough Neagh in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Additionally, recreational boating has undergone changes needed to prevent the spread of invasive species (Johnson et al 1789). The longevity, sedentary nature, and sensitivity of mussels to environmental changes makes them uniquely suited for long-term monitoring and for assessing the stability and health of waterbodies. Conservation of freshwater mussels will benefit from a better understanding of the biology of each species, and from population studies that determine age and size distribution, population density, condition, and habitat at multiple spatial scales. Modifications need to be implemented universally, so the declining mussel populations have more than a chance at the future. “The numbers of imperiled mussels in the United States and Canada portend a trajectory toward an extinction crisis that, unless dampened by prompt conservation action, may result in the complete loss of some genera and severe impoverishment of the richest freshwater mussel fauna in the world,” (Williams et al 22).   

IUCN Deputy Director General Bill Jackson
International Union for Conservation of Nature Deputy Director General Bill Jackson discusses freshwater conservation, YouTube

What will the future hold for mussels? Only time will tell…in the meantime, keep filtering mussels!

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List of Visuals

References
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