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

Annis, W.K., Hunter, E.A., and J.M. Carroll. 2022. Within-marsh and landscape features structure ribbed mussel distribution in Georgia, USA, marshes. Estuaries and Coasts.


For species distribution modeling to be most effective, models often require inputs across multiple spatial scales. Validated models can help locate sites for restoration efforts and management strategies. Ribbed mussels are marsh fauna that are sought after for use in coastal habitat management and restoration due to beneficial interactions with marsh fauna.
To improve mussel restoration efforts, it is imperative to understand the environmental factors that drive mussel distributions to be able to predict areas where restoration will be successful.
This study sought to estimate the effects of within-marsh (4m) and landscape (500m) factors on mussel distribution.
Mussel densities were surveyed at 11 sites along the coast of Georgia, USA, and overlaid with spatial data for within-marsh factors (elevation, distance to marsh features, slope) as well as landscape factors (percent cover of creek, forest, and development). The distribution model was then validated using three previously unsurvey marshes.
The model explained 55% of variance in mussel abundance. Mussel densities were most sensitive to changes in elevation but were also sensitive to changes in distance to subtidal creeks and percent cover of forests. Highest mussel densities were found in mid elevation areas, far from subtidal creeks and in marshes surrounded with forest.
The species distribution model developed for ribbed mussels was affected by factors on both scales examined, highlighting the importance of including multiscale factors these models. This work suggests that restoration should focus on appropriate elevations and at locations away from the marsh-creek ecotone.