Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Discovering causes of mysterious mussel declines
Freshwater mussels are keystone members of aquatic ecosystems that, as filter feeders, enhance water quality and overall ecosystem health. However, many species are on the verge of extinction, often for unknown reasons. Forest Service research is providing critical information for discovering causes of mussel declines and prescribing management actions that can address them.
The southeastern U.S. supports the most diverse mussel fauna on Earth. Freshwater mussels are filter feeders that enhance water quality and overall ecosystem health. However, mussels are declining alarmingly worldwide, and many species are on the verge of extinction.
Land management aimed at addressing this crisis is severely hampered by a lack of science-based information about the causes of these declines. SRS researchers are at the forefront of efforts to understand causes of declines and prescribe management actions to address them.
SRS researchers and collaborators developed a method for assessing stream health based on responses of caged young mussels. Caged mussels act as sentinels—similar to canaries in a coal mine—that provide valuable information about effects of a wide variety of factors on mussels and aquatic ecosystems in general. Mussels can be raised in hatcheries, which avoids impacts to wild populations yet provides large numbers of ideal study animals.
SRS research has produced three influential reviews of
- The spatial and temporal occurrence of mussel declines,
- An assessment of management efforts designed to address declines, and
- A critique of hatchery production methods for restoration.
In addition, ongoing research is investigating the potential role of invasive species and pathogens in mussel declines.
- Principal Investigator
- Wendell R. Haag, Research Fisheries Biologist
- 4155 - Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research
- Strategic Program Areas
- Invasive Species
- Water, Air, and Soil
- Wildlife and Fish
- Growth and survival of juvenile freshwater mussels in streams: Implications for understanding enigmatic mussel declines
- Reassessing enigmatic mussel declines in the United States
- Biodiversity on the brink: an assessment of conservation strategies for North American freshwater mussels
- Essay: Making the most of recent advances in freshwater mussel propagation and restoration
- CompassLive Article
- Closer to Understanding Enigmatic Mussel Declines
- Research Partner
- Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
- External Partners
- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
- Kentucky Division of Water
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- University of Kentucky
- Auburn University
- University of Georgia
- Kentucky State University
- Murray State University