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Keywords:

  • freshwater mussels;
  • Margaritifera;
  • Salmo trutta;
  • host fish;
  • glochidia;
  • fish biomass;
  • species diversity;
  • headwater stream

Abstract

  • 1.
    The status of host fish populations and fish species richness was investigated at 36 sites of 20 extant freshwater pearl mussel populations, including the drainages of the Elbe, Danube, Rhine, Weser, Aulne, Kemijoki and Tuuloma in Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Finland, by carrying out comparative electrofishings.
  • 2.
    Brown trout (Salmo trutta f. fario) were found to be the available host fish for pearl mussels in all except one of the streams investigated with mean densities of 2861 ha−1 (range 0–8710 ha−1) and a mean biomass of 119 kg ha−1 (range 0–478 kg ha−1). Streams that had been frequently stocked with brown trout had higher trout biomass and densities of host fish than natural populations, but trout stocking had no positive effect in two of the streams investigated.
  • 3.
    Fish species richness ranged from 2 to 16 species per stream and showed a negative correlation with host fish biomass and host fish densities. Undisturbed oligotrophic pearl mussel headwater streams usually only yielded a low number of fish species. Habitat degradation can reduce competitiveness of specialized trout and result in an increased abundance of ubiquitous or atypical species.
  • 4.
    A link between the lack of juvenile pearl mussels and a lack of suitable host fish was only rarely observed. Functional pearl mussel populations with relatively high numbers of juveniles had significantly lower densities and biomass of host fish than pearl mussel populations without recent recruitment.
  • 5.
    This study suggests that 0+ host fish are not necessarily required to sustain functional pearl mussel populations. Low densities of host fish can be compensated by the higher glochidia carrying capacity of older host fish with limited previous contact with pearl mussel glochidia, by the long reproductive period of mussels, and by low mortality rates of juvenile mussels during their post-parasitic phase.

Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.