North American freshwater mussels are in serious decline as a result of pollution and habitat destruction from human activities. In addition, many mussel species are living in habitats that push the upper limits of their heat tolerance, which may become problematic as the climate and, as a result, water temperatures warm. As part of this project, we created a set of models to predict how freshwater mussels would respond to climate change effects. Our primary objective was to help federal and state natural resource managers forecast how mussel species will respond to climate change over the next 30 to 50 years, so that managers can develop appropriate adaptation strategies to address these changes. Additionally, through this project, we aimed to generate new data to help refine and improve our models and predictions. We conducted laboratory and field studies investigating mussel sensitivity to temperature, sediment, streamflow, and habitat availability and quality. The results of these studies show, in part, that climate change has the potential to further imperil freshwater mussel species. For example, in warmer water temperatures, adult and juvenile mussels exhibit symptoms of stress, including slower heart rate and less burrowing activity, which leaves them exposed to predators. To read more about our findings, please check out our publications and products in the next sections on the page.
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“Southern rainbow mussel - Credit: Alan Cressler”
“Higgins eye pearly mussels - Credit: Gary Wege, USFWS”