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

Sethi SA, Selle AR, Doyle MW, Stanley EH, Kitchel HE. (2004) Response of Unionid mussels to a dam removal in Koshkonong Creek, USA. Hydrobiologia 525:157-65.


Dam removal is a potentially powerful tool for restoring riverine habitats and communities. However, the effectiveness of this tool is unknown because published data on the effects of dam removal on in-stream biota are lacking. We investigated the effects of a small dam removal on unionid mussels in Koshkonong Creek, Wisconsin (USA). Removal of the dam led to mortality both within the former impoundment and in downstream reaches. Within the former reservoir, mortality rates were extremely high (95&p e r c n t;) due to desiccation and exposure. Mussel densities in a bed 0.5km downstream from the dam declined from 3.80±0.56 musselsm−2 in fall 2000 immediately after dam removal to 2.60±0.48 musselsm−2 by summer 2003. One rare species, Quadrula pustulosa, was lost from community. Mortality of mussels buried in deposited silt was also observed at a site 1.7km below the dam. Silt and sand increased from 16.8 and 1.1% of total area sampled in fall 2000 to 30.4 and 15.9%, respectively, in summer 2003. Total suspended sediment concentrations in the water column were always higher downstream from the reservoir than upstream, suggesting that transport and deposition of reservoir sediments likely contributed to downstream mussel mortality. Thus, while benefits of the dam removal included fish passage and restoration of lotic habitats in the former millpond, these changes were brought about at some cost to the local mussel community. Pre-removal assessments of potential ecological impacts of dam removal and appropriate mitigation efforts should be included in the dam removal process to reduce short-term negative ecological effects of this restoration action.