Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Management in Arkansas: Past, Present, and Future Considerations

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 10:40 AM
Harris Brake (The Marriott Little Rock)
John Harris , Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR
Bill Posey , Fisheries Division, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Perrytown, AR
Chris Davidson , Arkansas Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conway, AR
Arkansas freshwater mussel resources have been utilized extensively by humans for centuries beginning with harvest for food and tools by pre-European Native Americans.  Following European settlement, mussels were exploited by the millions from the late 1800s to mid-1900s for button production and pearl harvest, and captured and processed for sale overseas in the cultured pearl industry from the mid-1900s to present.  Extensive dam construction and drainage projects from the early to late 1900s severely reduced Arkansas mussel populations in both numbers and range.  Continuing development projects, water utilization issues, and overall aquatic habitat degradation remain threats to Arkansas mussel resources.  Despite these perturbations, freshwater mussels in many Arkansas streams have persisted with a relatively intact fauna (85+ species statewide) and a few exemplary communities in some lotic systems that are among the best remaining in North America.  We will discuss a variety of on-going and planned projects aimed to 1) reduce loss of high quality habitat, 2) restore degraded habitat that once supported substantial mussel resources, and 3) monitor the health and composition of exemplary mussel communities.