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Does water chemistry limit the distribution of New Zealand mud snails in Redwood National Park?

March 10, 2016

New Zealand mud snails (NZMS) are exotic mollusks present in many waterways of the western United States. In 2009, NZMS were detected in Redwood Creek in Redwood National Park, CA. Although NZMS are noted for their ability to rapidly increase in abundance and colonize new areas, after more than 5 years in Redwood Creek, their distribution remains limited to a ca. 300 m reach. Recent literature suggests that low specific conductivity and environmental calcium can limit NZMS distribution. We conducted laboratory experiments, exposing NZMS collected from Redwood Creek to both natural waters and artificial treatment solutions, to determine if low conductivity and calcium concentration limit the distribution of NZMS in Redwood National Park. For natural water exposures, we held NZMS in water from their source location (conductivity 135 μS/cm, calcium 13 mg/L) or water from four other locations in the Redwood Creek watershed encompassing a range of conductivity (77–158 μS/cm) and calcium concentration (<5–13 mg/L). For exposures in treatment solutions, we manipulated both conductivity (range 20–200 μS/cm) and calcium concentration (range <5–17.5 mg/L) in a factorial design. Response variables measured included mortality and reproductive output. Adult NZMS survived for long periods (>4 months) in the lowest conductivity waters from Redwood Creek and all but the lowest-conductivity treatment solutions, regardless of calcium concentration. However, reproductive output was very low in all natural waters and all low-calcium treatment solutions. Our results suggest that water chemistry may inhibit the spread of NZMS in Redwood National Park by reducing their reproductive output.