Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Missouri
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Missouri Project

Determination of geomorphological and landscape factors contributing to diverse Unionoid mussel communities in Missouri River systems, with particular emphasis on the Meramec River Drainage

July 2014 - June 2019


Participating Agencies

  • Missouri Department of Conservation

The Missouri Department of Conservation is frequently queried regarding the general status of endangered and threatened mussels in Missouri, a question that will remain incompletely answered until a sufficiently rigorous and comprehensive assessment and monitoring framework is implemented in Missouri. This implementation is complicated by the diverse nature of Missouri’s mussel fauna and the limited personnel devoted to its conservation and assessment. A Conservation Assessment of Missouri’s fauna will allow for statewide, strategic, and spatially explicit monitoring that maximizes probability of detection of population and/or distributional changes in mussel species, while minimizing costs and man-hours dedicated to monitoring programs. The creation of this program requires several steps in the research process to come to fruition, and this proposal represents one of those key steps (Figure 1). Our long-term goal is to give rise to a decision support monitoring framework specifically designed to maximize the probability of detecting species or assemblage expansions or declines in key areas of the state that are the strongholds of mussel diversity, followed by a comprehensive conservation assessment of mussels in the state, identified as High Priority Objectives (1.3, 2.1, and 2.2) in the MDC Statewide Mussel Plan. Monitoring timing and frequency will be based on probability of detection with known habitat preferences, magnitude of risk, and sampling efficiency. The first step in attaining that goal, funded in FY14, was to develop standardized sampling methods for freshwater mussels and identify factors that affect mussel capture and detection probability or affect measures of assemblage characteristics. This proposal describes the second step in a conservation assessment with a strategic monitoring protocol: identification of the fundamental properties of habitats that support diverse mussel assemblages (our biological unit of interest), with particular emphasis on geomorphological and landscape factors that best predict core areas of mussel diversity in the state (Figure 1). Both of these steps are components required in identifying biological units of interest for conservation purposes.