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Monitoring fitness of caged mussels (Elliptio complanata) to assess and prioritize streams for restoration


  • Matthew W. Gray,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biosciences and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA
    • Correspondence to: Matthew Gray, Oregon State University, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR 97365, USA. E-mail:

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  • Danielle Kreeger

    1. Department of Biosciences and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA
    2. Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Wilmington, USA
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  1. Freshwater mussels (order: Unionidae) are among the most endangered aquatic organisms in North America. Conservationists and resource managers within the United States are increasingly advocating restoration of these animals to preserve biodiversity and boost ecosystem services in the nation's waterways.
  2. Historically, restoration methods have yielded less than optimal survival rates due in part to an inability to identify suitable habitat for these organisms. Through the use of caged mussels as bioindicators, a method was developed to test prospective restoration sites for their ability to support mussel fitness before beginning restoration so that investments are strategic.
  3. Mussels (Elliptio complanata) from a healthy population were caged and deployed to candidate streams. Their survivorship, condition, and proximate biochemical composition (protein, carbohydrate, lipid) was then monitored for 1 year. Streams that supported mussel fitness as well as or better than their source stream were considered to be suitable for restoration.
  4. Four of five candidate streams were found to support mussel fitness. In addition, reciprocal transfers between two source populations showed that the seasonal patterns of tissue biochemical composition responded to ambient stream conditions, indicating that this species is diagnostic as a bioindicator of stream quality and habitat suitability.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.