Ecosystem Services Provided By Freshwater Mussels

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 8:00 AM
Harris Brake (The Marriott Little Rock)
Caryn C. Vaughn , Oklahoma Biological Survey and Dept. of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Carla L. Atkinson , Oklahoma Biological Survey and Dept. of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Daniel Allen , School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Antonio Castro Martinez , Oklahoma Biological Sruvey, University of Oklahoma
Brandon Sansom , Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma
Brent Tweedy , Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma, TX
Ecosystem services are benefits humans derive from natural systems. These include direct services such as water, food and timber, regulating services like water purification and carbon storage, and cultural services such as recreation and spiritual enrichment. Freshwater mussels are a guild of sedentary, burrowing, long-lived, filter-feeding bivalves. The highest diversity of mussels is in North America, but mussels are declining. Although they occur in most types of freshwater habitats, mussels are most abundant and diverse in medium to large rivers, where they typically occur as dense, multispecies assemblages called mussel beds. We are quantifying the multiple ecosystem services provided by freshwater mussel communities.  Mussels filter large volumes of water, removing particulate material and possibly toxicants. Through their filtering activities, mussels transfer energy and nutrients from the water column to the benthos, stimulating benthic algal production and subsequent production of both aquatic and terrestrial consumers. Mussels decrease the downstream transport of nitrogen through remineralization and by storing nutrients in their tissue for long time periods.  Mussels provide habitat for other organisms through biogenic shell structure as well as by modifying sediments.  Mussels also are a Native American first food.  Conserving and restoring mussel populations will benefit society through these mussel-provided services.