Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Freshwater Biodiversity".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2024 | Viewed by 7311

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Landschaftspflegeverband, 94036 Passau, Germany
Interests: mussels; freshwater ecosystem; host fish; mussel ecology; bivalves

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Bivalves are a highly diverse taxonomic group, which has populated many different freshwater habitats. Many species evolved very specific and fascinating life cycles. Due to their high degree of specialization, sensitivity and the sedentary lifestyle, mussels are increasingly recognized as indicators for ecosystem health. At the same time, these characteristics resulted in a worldwide decline in freshwater mussels due to detrimental human impacts on many ecosystems and habitats.

Despite their key role, freshwater bivalves were neglected in research and conservation until recently, and efforts are still mainly focused on comparably few species. That means that considerable gaps in knowledge currently persist with regard to taxonomy, distribution, ecology and effective conservation strategies.

This Special Issue provides an opportunity to share new information and research on the value and importance of freshwater bivalves for the health of ecosystems and human well-being. We kindly invite the submission of manuscripts that focus on taxonomic, ecological, and conservation aspects with the aim of advancing our understanding of mussel ecology and how we can effectively preserve mussels and their ecosystem services for future generations.

Dr. Marco Denic
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • conservation
  • mussels
  • freshwater ecosystem
  • host fish
  • mussel ecology
  • bivalves

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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18 pages, 3230 KiB  
Article
Conservation Challenges Imposed by Evolutionary History and Habitat Suitability Shifts of Endangered Freshwater Mussels under a Global Climate Change Scenario
by Joaquim Reis, Silvia Perea, Mafalda Gama, Sofia L. Mendes, Vitor C. Sousa, Cristina Lima, Filipe Banha, Maria Gil, Maria Garcia Alvarez, Pedro Anastácio, Carla Sousa Santos and Rafael Araujo
Diversity 2024, 16(4), 209; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16040209 - 29 Mar 2024
Viewed by 936
Abstract
Climate change and associated shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns have become an increasing concern as drivers of ongoing biodiversity loss. The Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable, being both a biodiversity hotspot and a region very prone to desertification. Freshwater mussels are amongst [...] Read more.
Climate change and associated shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns have become an increasing concern as drivers of ongoing biodiversity loss. The Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable, being both a biodiversity hotspot and a region very prone to desertification. Freshwater mussels are amongst the most threatened invertebrate taxa worldwide. Unio tumidiformis is an endemic and endangered species restricted to the southern Iberian Peninsula, living in temporary Mediterranean-type streams. Freshwater mussels need a fish host for successful larval transformation, meaning U. tumidiformis must belong to the genus Squalius. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the vulnerability of U. tumidiformis to climate change, by studying its population genetics and evolutionary history, its current and future habitat suitability, and that of its hosts. Genetic population structure and diversity were assessed using Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms through Genotyping by Sequencing and used to infer species evolutionary history. The species potential distribution was modeled using an ensemble forecasting approach, and future shifts in habitat suitability were assessed with the projected climate data layers from Worldclim. Most populations showed extreme genetic differentiation (Fst up to 0.745), even from close neighboring ones. Upper Guadiana populations were more diverse and less differentiated. We hypothesize that U. tumidiformis originated in Upper Guadiana and followed the same colonization routes as their hosts with numerous founder effects and bottlenecks. Our results also predicted a reduction of 99% of climatically suitable areas for U. tumidiformis in the Iberian Peninsula until 2040. For the fish hosts, a maximum 42% reduction in suitable areas was estimated throughout the century, with remaining adequate habitats in the north. Our results suggest that difficult conservation options are necessary, prioritizing the preservation of populations, translocations to the northern area of its historical range and stream engineering to increase resilience to droughts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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11 pages, 669 KiB  
Article
Population Reinforcement of the Endangered Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera): Lessons Learned
by Louise Lavictoire and Christopher West
Diversity 2024, 16(3), 187; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16030187 - 20 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1585
Abstract
Freshwater mussel populations are in sharp decline and are considered to be one of the most imperilled groups globally. Consequently, the number of captive breeding programmes has increased rapidly in recent years, coupled with subsequent reintroductions/population reinforcements to reverse these declines. The outcomes [...] Read more.
Freshwater mussel populations are in sharp decline and are considered to be one of the most imperilled groups globally. Consequently, the number of captive breeding programmes has increased rapidly in recent years, coupled with subsequent reintroductions/population reinforcements to reverse these declines. The outcomes of mussel conservation translocations are seldom reported in the primary literature, hindering opportunities for learning and for population recovery at pace. Here, we describe the methods employed to carry out a successful conservation translocation of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in a declining population in northwest England. Following a small-scale pilot release in 2017, four release sites were identified for a population reinforcement of over 1300 tagged mussels in 2021. Monitoring during 2022 showed high levels of retention of juveniles at three out of the four release sites, despite the occurrence of a significant flood event during October 2021. Subsequent releases of 1100 juveniles were carried out across the three successful sites in 2023. Ongoing and regular monitoring is essential in order to provide data on the longer-term fate of propagated juveniles in the wild. This will allow for adaptive management of release activities in this river. These data will be useful to design conservation translocation strategies for other imperilled pearl mussel populations in the UK and throughout Europe. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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13 pages, 1316 KiB  
Article
Fish and Bivalve Therapeutants in Freshwater Mussel Captive Breeding—A First Summary of Practical Experiences in European Facilities
by Marco Denic, Keiko Nakamura, Catarina Varela-Dopico, Ben Strachan, Daniel Daill, Jakob Gaehrken, John Taylor and Felix Grunicke
Diversity 2024, 16(2), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16020078 - 25 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1177
Abstract
A significant part of freshwater mussel populations has strongly declined and many species are severely threatened nowadays. Captive breeding programs often form a central part of conservation strategies. As the life cycles of many mussel species include an obligate parasitic phase, host fish [...] Read more.
A significant part of freshwater mussel populations has strongly declined and many species are severely threatened nowadays. Captive breeding programs often form a central part of conservation strategies. As the life cycles of many mussel species include an obligate parasitic phase, host fish health is a crucial component of successful mussel breeding efforts. However, information about the safe application of fish therapeutants in mussel captive breeding is scarce. This article summarizes information about practical experiences in Europe. In total, eight different therapeutants were used to treat infestations of eight pathogens. Treatment success varied depending on pathogen and prevalence when treatments were initiated. Mussels did not seem to be affected by treatments, especially as long as they remained encysted. In a second step, Virkon S was applied to treat a fungal infection in tanks with brown trout (Salmo trutta) carrying encysted freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) glochidia and to disinfect juvenile mussel rearing containers. In both cases, mussels were not harmed and treated fish fully recovered. Results indicate that certain therapeutants can be used safely and successfully at different stages of breeding cycles. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of standard protocols, which would improve efficiency and the safety of treatments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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24 pages, 2750 KiB  
Article
Thermal Tolerance and Vulnerability to Climate Change of a Threatened Freshwater Mussel
by Annekatrin Wagner, Daniel Linke, Felix Grunicke and Thomas U. Berendonk
Diversity 2024, 16(1), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16010039 - 6 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1335
Abstract
Freshwater pearl mussels (FPMs, Margaritifera margaritifera, Linnaeus, 1758) are endangered and particularly vulnerable to climate change. To create effective conservation strategies, we studied their thermal tolerance and the impact of elevated water temperatures on growth and survival. Our experiments included field mesocosm studies [...] Read more.
Freshwater pearl mussels (FPMs, Margaritifera margaritifera, Linnaeus, 1758) are endangered and particularly vulnerable to climate change. To create effective conservation strategies, we studied their thermal tolerance and the impact of elevated water temperatures on growth and survival. Our experiments included field mesocosm studies in five FPM-streams in the Vogtland region (Germany) (2016 to 2020), as well as laboratory experiments at temperatures ranging from 1 to 26 °C. Growth of juvenile FPMs increased significantly within a temperature gradient from 12 to 21 °C. In the streams, maximum growth was 8.9 µm/d in surface water and 6.5 µm/d in the interstitial. The upper thermal tolerance for the mussels ranged from 22.1 to 22.9 °C, resulting in low survival during hot summer periods in 2018 and 2019. Warming during winter (+5 °C) did not significantly affect growth and survival, but survival during winter increased with the pre-overwintering shell length. Exceeding a shell length of about 1100 µm in December indicating gill development corelated to 50% survival. Shell length in December is primarily controlled by growth depending on water temperatures during summer. These findings define the thermal niche of juvenile FPMs (average summer temperatures of 14.5–21 °C) and have implications for water management, conservation strategies, and site selection for releasing captive-breeding mussels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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12 pages, 3099 KiB  
Article
Substratum Raking Can Restore Interstitial Habitat Quality in Swedish Freshwater Pearl Mussel Streams
by Juergen Geist, Rebecca Hoess, Johan Rytterstam and Håkan Söderberg
Diversity 2023, 15(7), 869; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15070869 - 18 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 910
Abstract
Functional and oxygenated stream beds provide crucial habitat for multiple endangered stream taxa, including endangered freshwater mussels, fishes, and insect larvae. Stream bed restoration measures such as substrate raking are often applied to mitigate excess fine sediment introductions and stream bed colmation, yet [...] Read more.
Functional and oxygenated stream beds provide crucial habitat for multiple endangered stream taxa, including endangered freshwater mussels, fishes, and insect larvae. Stream bed restoration measures such as substrate raking are often applied to mitigate excess fine sediment introductions and stream bed colmation, yet such measures are controversial. In this study, we conducted a systematic experiment in which sites with stream bed raking and removal of macrophytes were monitored over two years and compared with before-treatment conditions and untreated reference sites in the Swedish Brånsån stream, which still contains a population of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera. The stream bed restoration resulted in improved habitat quality, as evident from decreased substrate compaction, increased redox potential, and oxygen supply into the stream bed. In contrast to previous studies in Central European catchments with more intensive agricultural catchment uses, the effects of the restoration measure were much longer, extending over two years. Consequently, stream bed raking and macrophyte removal can be considered a useful and more long-lasting restoration measure than currently assumed, especially in streams where excess input of fine sediment has already been mitigated, where catchment land use is rather extensive, and where near-natural flow regimes still prevail. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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10 pages, 902 KiB  
Brief Report
An Initial Survey of Unionid Mussels in Lakes East of the Missouri River in South Dakota, USA
by Riley E. Henderson, Katherine M. Wollman, Chelsey A. Pasbrig and Michael E. Barnes
Diversity 2024, 16(5), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16050256 - 24 Apr 2024
Viewed by 541
Abstract
This study surveyed freshwater mussels (family Unionidae) in 116 lakes and reservoirs east of the Missouri River in South Dakota, USA, during 2017. Using two-person–hour/site timed searches, evidence of a total of 1789 mussels, including 1053 live mussels, was obtained from 50 waters. [...] Read more.
This study surveyed freshwater mussels (family Unionidae) in 116 lakes and reservoirs east of the Missouri River in South Dakota, USA, during 2017. Using two-person–hour/site timed searches, evidence of a total of 1789 mussels, including 1053 live mussels, was obtained from 50 waters. Nine species, from two different orders, were found in lakes and reservoirs throughout five of the six major river drainages east of the Missouri River. The native species observed included Giant Floater Pyganodon grandis, Fatmucket Lampsilis siliquoidea, Threeridge Amblema plicata, White Heelsplitter Lasmigona complanata, Wabash Pigtoe Fusconaia flava, Deertoe Truncilla truncata, and Pink Heelsplitter Potamilus alatus. Giant Floater was the most widespread and abundant species observed, representing 63.3% of the live mussels sampled. Two non-native species, Zebra Mussel Dreissena polymorpha and Chinese Basket Clam Corbicula fluminea, were also documented from three water bodies in the lower Missouri River drainage. Overall, mussel abundance was negatively correlated with lake water conductivity and positively correlated with turbidity. No significant correlations were observed between species abundance and water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, or substrate particle size. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Population Ecology and Protection of Freshwater Mussels)
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