Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Native Mussels

West Newton Chute Native Mussel Story Map 

This story map portrays spatial and temporal patterns in native freshwater mussel (Unionioida) assemblage within West Newton Chute, a side channel in navigation Pool 5 of the Upper Mississippi River. Spatial and temporal patterns in species richness and density of three life stages and multiple guilds in this mussel assemblage were explored.

News: Minnesota's native mussels: Still in peril, but signs of hope

Freshwater mussels are among the most fascinating, widespread, and endangered animals in fresh waters. Mussels perform important roles in river ecosystems, such as filtering large amounts of water and associated sediments which improves water clarity, alters water chemistry, and regulates the amounts and kinds of particles in the water. Mussels also increase species diversity by creating habitat for aquatic insects and fish. Algae and macroinvertebrates rely on mussels to convert food and waste products in the water column, like nutrients, into beneficial forms for animals living on the river bottom.

However, overharvesting, widespread habitat destruction, pollution, land-use change, and exotic species introductions have caused many freshwater mussel populations to decline or disappear. In the past 50 years about 20 mussel species have been lost from the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) basin (Havlik and Sauer 2000). Native mussels serve as an indicator of water and sediment quality, much like canaries did for the coal mines, and declines signal a potential deterioration in the health of our riverine community.

Our long-term goal is to conserve and restore healthy freshwater mussel populations in the UMR basin and elsewhere. This focus is largely derived from conversations with resource managers who have expressed the following short-term needs:

  • Identify factors limiting the distribution and abundance of freshwater mussels in the UMR basin to provide managers with conservation and restoration procedures and strategies. This currently includes a focus on:
    • Identifying suitable habitat for mussels
    • Identifying food sources and critical dietary needs for mussels
  • Determine the status of the mussel community in the Upper Mississippi River
  • Evaluate the effects of habitat rehabilitation projects on native mussel populations
Filter Total Items: 26
Date published: July 8, 2021
Status: Active

Evaluate Propagation Efforts and Determine Dispersal Patterns for Quadrula fragosa from Tagged, Artificially Infested Host Fish (Ictalurus punctatus) in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN)

The Winged Mapleleaf mussel (Quadrula fragosa) is only known to inhabit five locations in the U.S., and the population in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is isolated both physically and genetically from the other populations. In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued Reasonable and Prudent Measures, which required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to...

Date published: July 8, 2021
Status: Active

Improving Survival of Juvenile Winged Mapleleaf Mussels (Quadrula fragosa) Through Identification of Host Fish Overwintering Areas

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN) is one of the last refuges for rapidly declining populations of native unionid mussels in the United States and supports the only known self-sustaining population of the federally endangered Winged Mapleleaf mussel (Quadrula fragosa) in the upper Mississippi River basin. The Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is the only known...

Date published: May 29, 2020
Status: Active

Investigation Into Mass Mussel Die-off Events

Assessing Impacts of Emerging and Established Diseases to Aquatic Ecosystems

The decline of native freshwater mussels has the potential to devastate aquatic communities. Although factors such as habitat...

Contacts: Diane Waller
Date published: May 29, 2020
Status: Active

Development of Selective Control Tools

Management Tools for Dreissenid Mussels

Currently, dreissenid mussel populations are spreading and becoming a growing problem in many aquatic systems, making it important to find management techniques that are selective for the invasive...

Contacts: Diane Waller
Date published: April 14, 2020
Status: Active

Conservation and Restoration of Native Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels are the most imperiled group of animals in North America, with 66% of species at risk. Mussel populations are declining globally, but the factors contributing to these declines are largely unknown. Habitat fragmentation and alteration, point- and non-point source pollution, navigation-related impacts, and exotic species introductions are thought to be responsible for mussel...

Contacts: Teresa J Newton
Date published: April 14, 2020
Status: Active

Characterization of the Mussel Microbiome: Assessment of Microbe Biodiversity Across Species, Individuals, and Environmental Compartments.

Conservation and Restoration of Native Freshwater Mussels

There has been substantial research on mussels in many areas, however, methods to estimate the overall health of mussels has received less attention. Assessing...

Contacts: Teresa J Newton
Date published: April 14, 2020
Status: Active

Systematic Analysis of Hydrogeomorphic Influences on Native Freshwater Mussels

Conservation and Restoration of Native Freshwater Mussels

Over the past 50 years, about 20 native freshwater mussel species have been lost or greatly diminished from the Upper Mississippi River System and overall abundance...

Contacts: Teresa J Newton
Date published: April 9, 2020
Status: Active

Potential reproductive effects of the lampricides TFM and TFM:1% Niclosamide on native freshwater mussels

Conservation and Restoration of Native Freshwater Mussels

There has been growing concern by Federal and State agencies in recent years over the risk that lampricide applications may have on non-target organisms. Due to...

Contacts: Teresa J Newton
Date published: April 9, 2020
Status: Active

Ecosystem Services Provided by Native Freshwater Mussels

Conservation and Restoration of Native Freshwater Mussels

Clean water is vital to public health, commerce, and recreation in the United States. Despite great efforts to reduce water pollution, many waters in the U.S. remain...

Contacts: Teresa J Newton
Date published: February 19, 2020
Status: Active

Develop Sonar Data Mapping on Three Rivers to Assess Suitability for Native Mussel Habitat

The National Park Service Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is known for their conservation efforts of threatened and endangered native freshwater mussels. Understanding what constitutes mussel habitat is important for identifying suitable habitat for the conservation and restoration of freshwater mussels. Mussel habitat has not been well...

Date published: February 19, 2020
Status: Active

Hydroacoustic mapping of habitat for threatened and endangered native mussels in the Upper Mississippi River

Understanding the distribution of threatened and endangered freshwater mussels is needed to conserve and restore populations. Sampling for native freshwater mussels typically involves taking quadrat samples in soft substrates and counting the number of mussels in a defined area. However, this methodology is unsuitable for detecting populations of the Spectaclecase mussel (Margaritifera...

Date published: January 21, 2020
Status: Active

Invasive Carp Control: Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is being evaluated as a chemical control for invasive carps. Recent work involves investigations on the effectiveness of CO2 as a tool to limit range expansion by blocking upstream migrations (behavioral deterrent) and manage existing populations (lethal control). Data generated from these studies are intended to inform resource managers decisions...

Contacts: Aaron Cupp