Propagation of Juvenile Freshwater Mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) and Assessment of Habitat Suitability for Restoration of Mussels in the Clinch River, Virginia

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Virginia Tech

Freshwater mussel propagation techniques were tested at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center through a series of three experiments. Experiment 1 tested the suitability of a pond and raceway for rearing juvenile oystermussels (Epioblasma capsaeformis) and wavyrayed lampmussel (Lampsilis fasciola). This experiment was prematurely terminated due to predation on mussels by fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Experiment 2 evaluated growth and survival of juvenile rainbow mussels in outdoor troughs and indoor aquaria. There was no significant difference in survival or growth between the two systems. Experiment 3 used troughs similar to those in Experiment 2 to rear E. capsaeformis and L. fasciola under two silt regimes. Survival for Experiment 3 was significantly greater for L. fasciola. The comparison between silt regimes indicated that individuals in the high-silt treatment had better survival than those in the low-silt treatment. The difference between these 2 treatments may be a reflection of increased escapement in the low-silt treatment, which may have resulted from more frequent disturbance during sampling. Growth of L. fasciola was significantly greater than E. capsaeformis, and was greater in the low-silt treatment.

A habitat survey of the Clinch River, Virginia was conducted from Blackford, Clinch River Kilometer (CRK) 478 to the Tennessee border, CRK 325. Physical characteristics identified in the survey were combined with water quality and impact source data to develop a habitat suitability index for freshwater mussels within this study reach. Model parameters were indexed and weighted to give a final suitability ranking. Habitat units having the highest overall ranking included: Nash Ford (CRK 449), Artrip (CRK 442), several riffles and runs below Carterton (CRK 417), upstream of Mill Island (CRK 389.5), and Pendleton Island (CRK 365), and Speers Ferry (CRK 333-325). Potential locations for habitat restoration projects and additional monitoring were also identified.

rainbow mussel, Clinch River, oystermussel, Mussel, Ecological risk assessment, Propagation, Unionidae, wavyrayed lampmussel