Recovery status and chemosensory cues affecting reproduction of freshwater mussles in the North Fork Holston River downstream of Saltville, Virginia
The freshwater mussel fauna of the North Fork Holston River (NFHR) downstream of Saltville, VA declined from at least 24 species, as observed in 1918, to one species in 1974 due to mercury pollution. To determine the degree of recovery of mussels in the NFHR downstream of Saltville, and to provide recommendations for future mussel translocation sites, 19 sites were surveyed using a snorkeling catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) method. At sites where investigator CPUE values (no./h) equaled or exceeded 5 mussels/h, a CPUE survey was conducted along transect lines. If investigator CPUE values equaled 10 mussels/h, a quadrat survey was conducted along the transects. Nine species of mussels were observed in the NFHR, and reproduction, as indicated by the presence of juveniles, was noted at 5 sites. Recovery of mussels was judged to be occurring downstream of NFHRM 56.4 based on species aggregations and recruitment. The number of mussels collected at sites, random CPUE (no./h), transect CPUE (no./h), and density (no./O.25m2) were generally inversely correlated to total Hg content, but not methyl mercury content, as measured in Corbicula fluminea from proximate sites. Random and transect CPUE (no./h) were found to be poor predictors of site densities (no./O.25m2) and popUlation estimates. Translocation recommendations for the NFHR downstream of Saltville, VA were made based on species aggregations, recruitment, and the distribution of total mercury.