• endangered mussels;
  • adaptive cluster sampling;
  • mussel habitat;
  • population estimates


  • 1.
    North America is a globally important centre of freshwater mussel biodiversity. Accurate population estimates and descriptions of critical habitat for endangered species of mussels are needed but are hindered by their patchy distribution and the dynamic nature of their habitat. Adaptive cluster sampling (ACS) was used to estimate population size and habitat associations of two federally endangered species, Higgins eye (Lampsilis higginsii) and winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa), in the St. Croix River.
  • 2.
    This river holds the largest known winged mapleleaf population in the upper Mississippi River and contains Essential Habitat Areas for Higgins eye. Winged mapleleaf density ranged from 0.008–0.020 individuals m−2 (coefficient of variation=50–66%), yielding an estimate of 13 000 winged mapleleaf in this reach of the river. Higgins eye density varied from 0.008–0.015 individuals m−2 (coefficient of variation=66–167%) giving an estimate of 14 400 individuals in this area.
  • 3.
    Higgins eye and winged mapleleaf were associated with areas of the overall highest mussel density and species richness, suggesting these endangered species occur in ‘premier’ mussel habitat. There were no differences in many microhabitat factors for sites with and without either endangered species. Select hydraulic measures (such as shear velocity and shear stress) showed significant differences in areas with and without the winged mapleleaf but not for Higgins eye. Areas that are less depositional support dense and diverse mussel assemblages that include both endangered species, with winged mapleleaf having a narrower habitat range than Higgins eye.
  • 4.
    This study suggests that ACS can provide statistically robust estimates of density with 2–3 times more efficiency than simple random sampling. ACS, however, was quite time consuming. This work confirmed that of others demonstrating that larger-scale hydraulic parameters might be better predictors of prime mussel habitat than fine-scaled microhabitat factors. Using hydraulic measures may allow improved identification of potentially critical mussel habitat. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.