Distribution of unionid freshwater mussels and host fishes in Texas. A study of broad-scale spatial patterns across basins and a strong climate gradient
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Unionid freshwater mussels are a threatened fauna, and understanding their distribution is essential to aid and promote conservation efforts. Therefore, we (1) compared patterns of species richness and endemism of Texas mussel and fish species, as mussels depend on fish for their reproduction and dispersal; (2) examined how distribution and community composition of mussels and fishes varies across river basins; and (3) how much variation in mussel community composition could be explained by the distribution of potential host fish, river basin (as a spatial component), ecoregion (as proxy for large-scale environmental differences), and flow variability. Mussel and fish community compositions in rivers differed significantly between river basins with an east-to-west gradient of decreasing species richness following the transition from sub-humid to arid climate. River basin explained 25% of the variation in mussel community composition, and potential host fish presence explained 20%. The total variation explained by both variables was 34%, as part of the variation in host fish presence (11.5%) was spatially structured by differences in river basins. Flow variability explained an additional 14% of the variation in mussel community composition, and ecoregion an additional 9% compared with river basin alone. Locations of significantly higher mussel species richness and/or endemism were present in rivers from all regions of Texas. These locations should be protected, especially as human population continues to expand and urbanize in these regions. A better understanding of mussel–host fish relationships and the impact of flow variation on the distribution of mussels will be needed to inform conservation efforts.
KeywordsUnionid mussel conservation Metacommunity Hot spot analysis Flow variation Variation partitioning Redundancy analysis
The authors thank Jenae Olson for her help in organizing the data during the initial stages of research, and Tim Bonner for contributing fish data and sharing his knowledge of fishes in Texas. Unionid data collection was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant Program through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2004–2011); the Texas Water Development Board (2006–2007); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Joint Traditional Section 6 Program, 2011–2014). L.E. Burlakova was also supported by the Research Foundation of SUNY, and A.N. Schwalb was supported by the Research Enhancement Program at Texas State University.
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