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Keywords:

  • freshwater mussels;
  • Unionidae;
  • Corbicula;
  • community;
  • demography;
  • recruitment;
  • viability;
  • conservation;
  • Mobile Basin

Abstract

  • 1.
    Patterns of mussel diversity and assemblage structure in the Sipsey River, Alabama, are described. Qualitative data were used to describe river-wide patterns of diversity. Quantitative data were used to describe the structure of mussel assemblages at several sites based on whole-substrate sampling that ensured all size classes were detected.
  • 2.
    Major human impacts to the stream are limited to apparent effects of coal mining in the headwaters and the impoundment of the lower 9 km of the river by a dam on the Tombigbee River. These impacts resulted in a sharp decline in mussel diversity in the headwaters, and extirpation or decline of populations of several large-river species in the lower river that were probably dependent on colonization from the Tombigbee River.
  • 3.
    Despite localized impacts, mussel assemblages throughout much of the river appear to be mostly intact and self-sustaining. These assemblages have several attributes that differ substantially from those in more degraded streams: (1) high retention of historical species richness; (2) gradual, longitudinal increase in species richness from upstream to downstream, resulting in distinctive headwater and downstream assemblages; (3) ubiquity of most species within particular river segments; (4) low dominance and high evenness with large populations of many species; and (5) frequent recruitment for most species resulting in occurrence of individuals in many size classes.
  • 4.
    Few detailed and demographically unbiased descriptions of relatively intact mussel assemblages exist. We propose that characteristics described in the Sipsey River can be used as a baseline comparison for assessing relative degree of assemblage alteration in other streams and can serve as goals for restoration efforts. Published in 2010 by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.