Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mussel Survey

Freshwater mussels are thought to be one of the most endangered animals in North America, but they are not well studied.  They are filter feeders, and feel the effects of pollution harshly.  Crystal Springs Creek is a rather special creek.  Because it  is spring-fed, it is consistently cold and clean, and great habitat for fish like salmon and lamprey.  It's also wonderful for freshwater mussels.     Last summer, construction was beginning in Westmoreland Park that would benefit the habitat in the long run, but would surely kill all the freshwater mussels in that portion of the creek in the process.   The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (slogan:  "We stand up for the spineless!")  and the Crystal Springs Partnership jumped into action.  They organized volunteers to gather 750+ mussels from the water, tag them until they ran out of tags, and move them to another portion of Crystal Springs Creek. We volunteered for this effort, but had to drop out because the park was officially a construction zone and only adults were allowed on site.  A year later, with the official reopening of Westmoreland Park, volunteers were needed again to go back into the water to see how the mussels were doing.  In Westmoreland Park, after a day of searching, volunteers found a single, pioneering freshwater mussel had returned.  The next day, we headed over to the relocation site to see what we could see.  We collectively scooped 2100+ healthy mussels out of the water. We checked for tags before gently returning them to the creek bed.  Based on the number of tagged mussels that were found alive vs. tagged shells, it is thought that around 95% of the relocated mussels survived.  And they weren't found either upstream or downstream from the relocation site, which means they liked it where they were put enough to stay.  We found lots of crawdads, some baby mussels, and quite a few lamprey! 
Anodonta floater mussel.
Baby mussel.

No comments: