Evaluation of freshwater mussel conservation strategies at multiple scales: Macro-molecules, behavior, habitat, and policy
Freshwater mussels are the second most imperiled taxonomic group in North America. In the United States, the most threatened mussel species receive special protection under the Endangered Species Act, among others, which requires implementation of a conservation action strategy to ameliorate potential impacts to protected populations and their habitats. This dissertation evaluates the response of freshwater mussels, through condition indicators, individual behavior, and community metrics, to conservation strategies. The first strategy evaluated is the effect of relocation on an endangered mussel species, Potamilus capax (Green 1832). As relocation requires identification of safe harbor habitats, a methodology is proposed to identify suitable areas or define habitat parameters for the design of habitat restoration. The second strategy evaluated is taking no conservation action, beyond best management practices for the control of erosion sediments, associated with bridge construction activities. Though no substantial effect of either conservation action was observed, both strategies have inherent drawbacks to endangered species protection. To reduce this risk, and achieve recovery objectives, a new conservation policy framework is proposed. This policy proposal incorporates advances in the biological and ecological understanding of freshwater mussels as well as emerging techniques in the field of conservation policy.
0474: Environmental management