Skip to main content
Log in

Distribution and microhabitats of freshwater mussels in waterbodies in the terrestrialized floodplains of a lowland river

  • Research paper
  • Published:
Limnology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Even when anthropogenically altered, river floodplains continue to contribute to biodiversity. This study examined the distribution of freshwater mussels in relation to environmental factors in waterbodies in the terrestrialized floodplain of a lowland river. Mussels were captured, and environmental measurements were taken in November of 2013 and 2014 in quadrats established in three floodplain waterbodies (FWBs), which were isolated from the main river channel. Among the three FWBs, mussel abundance was highest in a shallow FWB (depth range 18–45 cm) that had intermediate conditions of mud depth and fine sediment rate. Mussel abundance showed a hump-shaped relationship with water depth (the peak 45–50 cm) and mud depth (the peak 8–12 cm). Mussel abundance was also negatively related to the abundance of benthic litter. Litter abundance was positively related to branch abundance and the presence of tree cover, and negatively related to the distance to tree cover, indicating that benthic litter was derived from riparian trees. Our results indicate that relatively shallow (≤ 50 cm) FWBs with moderately accumulated mud, which are not scoured even during flooding, appear to be suitable habitats for mussels. Moreover, it is possible that riparian trees negatively impact mussel distribution in FWBs. Possible short-term measures for improving mussel habitat in FWBs may include the elimination of riparian trees and benthic litter.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Aldridge DC, Fayle TM, Jackson N (2007) Freshwater mussel abundance predicts biodiversity in UK lowland rivers. Aquat Conserv 17:554–564

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bogan AE (1993) Freshwater bivalve extinctions (Mollusca: Unionoida): a search for causes. Am Zool 33:599–609

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bolker BM, Brooks ME, Clark CJ, Geange SW, Poulsen JR, Stevens MHH, White J-SS (2009) Generalized linear mixed models: a practical guide for ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 24:127–135

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bravard J-P, Amoros C, Pautou G, Bornette G, Bournaud M, Des Châtelliers MC, Gibert J, Peiry J-L, Perrin J-F, Tachet H (1997) River incision in south-east France: morphological phenomena and ecological effects. Regul River 13:75–90

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cvancara AM (1972) Lake mussel distribution as determined with scuba. Ecology 53:154–157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harada M, Nagayama S, Oishi T, Kayaba Y (2015) Microtopography formation after flood-channel excavation in Ibi-River (in Japanese with English summary). J Jpn Soc Civ Eng Ser B1 (Hydraul Eng) 71:I_1015–I_1020

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayashi K (1972) Ecological studies on the useful Mollusca in Lake Biwa (second part). Venus 31:71–101

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard JK, Cuffey KM (2003) Freshwater mussels in a California North Coast Range river: occurrence, distribution, and controls. J N Am Benthol Soc 22:63–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kat PW (1982) Effects of population density and substratum type on growth and migration of Elliptio complanata (Bivalvia: Unionidae). Malacol Rev 15:119–127

    Google Scholar 

  • Kondo T, Kano M (1993) Behavioral movement of six species of unionid mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) (in Japanese with English summary). Biol Inland Water 8:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  • Kume M, Negishi JN, Sagawa S, Miyashita T, Aoki S, Ohmori T, Sanada S, Kayaba Y (2014) Winter fish community structures across floodplain backwaters in a drought year. Limnology 15:109–115

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis JB, Riebel PN (1984) The effect of substrate on burrowing in freshwater mussels (Unionidae). Can J Zool 62:2023–2025

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marston RA, Girel J, Pautou G, Piegay H, Bravard J, Arneson C (1995) Channel metamorphosis, floodplain disturbance, and vegetation development: Ain River, France. Geomorphology 13:121–131

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morales Y, Weber LJ, Mynett AE, Newton TJ (2006) Effects of substrate and hydrodynamic conditions on the formation of mussel beds in a large river. J N Am Benthol Soc 25:664–676

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagata Y (1985) Spawning period and migration of rose bitterling, Rhodeus ocellatus, in a small pond (in Japanese with English summary). Jpn J Ichthyol 32:79–89

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagayama S, Harada M, Kayaba Y (2015) Can floodplains be recovered by flood-channel excavation? An example from Japanese lowland rivers (in Japanese with English summary). Ecol Civ Eng 17:67–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Negishi JN, Kayaba Y, Sagawa S (2008) Ecological consequences of changing riverscape: terrestrialization of floodplain and freshwater mussels (in Japanese). Civ Eng J 50:38–41

    Google Scholar 

  • Negishi JN, Sagawa S, Kayaba Y, Sanada S, Kume M, Miyashita T (2012a) Mussel responses to flood pulse frequency: the importance of local habitat. Freshw Biol 57:1500–1511

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Negishi JN, Sagawa S, Sanada S, Kume M, Ohmori T, Miyashita T, Kayaba Y (2012b) Using airborne scanning laser altimetry (LiDAR) to estimate surface connectivity of floodplain water bodies. River Res Appl 28:258–267

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Negishi JN, Nagayama S, Kume M, Sagawa S, Kayaba Y, Yamanaka Y (2013) Unionoid mussels as an indicator of fish communities: a conceptual framework and empirical evidence. Ecol Indic 24:127–137

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rangel TF, Diniz-Filho JAF, Bini LM (2010) SAM: a comprehensive application for spatial analysis in macroecology. Ecography 33:46–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R Core Team (2015) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.

  • Robinson CT, Tockner K, Ward JV (2002) The fauna of dynamic riverine landscapes. Freshw Biol 47:661–677

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Samad F, Stanley JG (1986) Loss of freshwater shellfish after water drawdown in Lake Sebasticook, Maine. J Freshw Ecol 3:519–523

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strayer DL (1999) Use of flow refuges by unionid mussels in rivers. J N Am Benthol Soc 18:468–476

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Takahashi M, Nakamura F (2011) Impacts of dam-regulated flows on channel morphology and riparian vegetation: a longitudinal analysis of Satsunai River, Japan. Landsc Ecol Eng 7:65–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Terui A, Miyazaki Y, Yoshioka A, Kaifu K, Matsuzaki SS, Washitani I (2014) Asymmetric dispersal structures a riverine metapopulation of the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera laevis. Ecol Evol 4:3004–3014

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Tockner K, Stanford JA (2002) Riverine flood plains: present state and future trends. Environ Conserv 29:308–330

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tockner K, Schiemer F, Ward JV (1998) Conservation by restoration: the management concept for a river–floodplain system on the Danube River in Austria. Aquat Conserv 8:71–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vercken E, Kramer AM, Tobin PC, Drake JM (2011) Critical patch size generated by Allee effect in gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.). Ecol Lett 14:179–186

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Ward JV, Tockner K, Schiemer F (1999) Biodiversity of floodplain river ecosystems: ecotones and connectivity. Regul River 15:125–139

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank our colleagues, H. Takaoka and T. Fujimori, and M. Kume from Gifu Keizai University for their assistance with fieldwork, M. Sueyoshi for his helpful comments about statistical analysis, and Editage ( for English language editing. We also appreciate two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shigeya Nagayama.

Additional information

Handling Editor: Junjiro N. Negishi.



See Table 4.

Table 4 Spatial correlogram of the abundance of mussels in FWB 2

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nagayama, S., Harada, M. & Kayaba, Y. Distribution and microhabitats of freshwater mussels in waterbodies in the terrestrialized floodplains of a lowland river. Limnology 17, 263–272 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: