Droughts often pose situations where stream water levels are lowest while human demand for water is highest. Here we present results of an observational study documenting changes in freshwater mussel communities in two southern US rivers during a multi-year drought. During a 13-year period water releases into the Kiamichi River from an impoundment were halted during droughts, while minimum releases from an impoundment were maintained in the Little River. The Kiamichi observed nearly twice as many low-flow events known to cause mussel mortality than the Little, and regression tree analyses suggest that this difference was influenced by reduced releases. During this period mussel communities in the Kiamichi declined in species richness and abundance, changes that were not observed in the Little. These results suggest that reduced releases during droughts likely led to mussel declines in one river, while maintaining reservoir releases may have sustained mussel populations in another.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Allen, D.C., and C.C. Vaughn. 2010. Substrate and hydraulic variables limit freshwater mussel species richness and abundance. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 383–394.
Allen, D.C., and C.C. Vaughn. 2011. Density-dependent biodiversity effects on physical habitat modification by freshwater bivalves. Ecology 92: 1013–1019.
Allen, D.C., C.C. Vaughn, J.F. Kelly, J.T. Cooper, and M.H. Engel. 2012. Bottom–up biodiversity effects increase resource subsidy flux between ecosystems. Ecology 93: 2165–2174.
Baron, J.S., N.L. Poff, P.L. Angermeier, C.N. Dahm, P.H. Gleick, N.G. Hairston, R.B. Jackson, C.A. Johnston, et al. 2002. Meeting ecological and societal needs for freshwater. Ecological Applications 12: 1247–1260.
Bednarek, A.T., and D.D. Hart. 2005. Modifying dam operations to restore rivers: Ecological responses to Tennessee river dam mitigation. Ecological Applications 15: 997–1008.
Bradford, M.J., P.S. Higgins, J. Korman, and J. Sneep. 2011. Test of an environmental flow release in a British Columbia river: Does more water mean more fish? Freshwater Biology 56: 2119–2134.
Connor, E.J., and D.E. Pflug. 2004. Changes in the distribution and density of pink, chum, and Chinook salmon spawning in the upper Skagit River in response to flow management measures. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 24: 835–852.
De’ath, G., and K.E. Fabricius. 2000. Classification and regression trees: A powerful yet simple technique for ecological data analysis. Ecology 81: 3178–3192.
Decker, A.S., M.J. Bradford, and P.S. Higgins. 2008. Rate of biotic colonization following flow restoration below a diversion dam in the Bridge River, British Columbia. River Research and Applications 24: 876–883.
Doyle, M.W., J.M. Harbor, and E.H. Stanley. 2003. Toward policies and decision-making for dam removal. Environmental Management 31: 453–465.
Gagnon, P.M., S.W. Golladay, W.K. Michener, and M.C. Freeman. 2004. Drought responses of freshwater mussels (Unionidae) in coastal plain tributaries of the Flint River basin, Georgia. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 19: 667–679.
Galbraith, H.S., and C.C. Vaughn. 2009. Temperature and food interact to influence gamete development in freshwater mussels. Hydrobiologia 636: 35–47.
Galbraith, H.S., and C.C. Vaughn. 2011. Effects of reservoir management on abundance, condition, parasitism, and reproductive traits of downstream mussels. River Research and Applications 27: 193–201.
Galbraith, H.S., D.E. Spooner, and C.C. Vaughn. 2008. Status of rare and endangered freshwater mussels in Southeastern Oklahoma. Southwestern Naturalist 53: 45–50.
Galbraith, H.S., D.E. Spooner, and C.C. Vaughn. 2010. Synergistic effects of regional climate patterns and local water management on freshwater mussel communities. Biological Conservation 143: 1175–1183.
Gido, K.B., and D.L. Propst. 2012. Long-term dynamics of native and nonnative fishes in the San Juan River, New Mexico and Utah, under a partially managed flow regime. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141: 645–659.
Gore, J.A. 1978. Technique for predicting in-stream flow requirements of benthic macroinvertebrates. Freshwater Biology 8: 141–151.
Gough, H.M., A.M.G. Landis, and J.A. Stoeckel. 2012. Behaviour and physiology are linked in the responses of freshwater mussels to drought. Freshwater Biology 57: 2356–2366.
Haag, W.R. 2012. North American freshwater mussels: Ecology, natural history, and conservation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Climate change 2007. 4th Assessment Report, 104 pp.
Isely, F.B. 1924. The freshwater mussel fauna of eastern Oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 4: 43–118.
Konrad, C.P., J.D. Olden, D.A. Lytle, T.S. Melis, J.C. Schmidt, E.N. Bray, M.C. Freeman, K.B. Gido, et al. 2011. Large-scale flow experiments for managing river systems. BioScience 61: 948–959.
Layzer, J.B., M.E. Gordon, and R.M. Anderson. 1993. Mussels: The forgotten fauna of regulated rivers. A case study of the Caney Fork River. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 8: 63–71.
Liu, L., Y. Hong, C.N. Bednarczyk, B. Yong, M.A. Shafer, R. Riley, and J.E. Hocker. 2012. Hydro-climatological drought analyses and projections using meteorological and hydrological drought indices: A case study in Blue River Basin, Oklahoma. Water Resources Management 26: 2761–2779.
Lytle, D.A., and N.L. Poff. 2004. Adaptation to natural flow regimes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 19: 94–100.
Matthews, W.J., C.C. Vaughn, K.B. Gido, and E. Marsh-Matthews. 2005. Southern plains rivers. In Rivers of North America, ed. A.C. Benke and C.E. Cushing, 283–325. Boston, MA: Elsevier.
Maynard, C.M., and S.N. Lane. 2012. Reservoir compensation releases: Impact on the macroinvertebrate community of the Derwent River, Northumberland, UK—A longitudinal study. River Research and Applications 28: 692–702.
Milly, P.C.D., K.A. Dunne, and A.V. Vecchia. 2005. Global pattern of trends in streamflow and water availability in a changing climate. Nature 438: 347–350.
Mulholland, P.J., G.R. Best, C.C. Coutant, G.M. Hornberger, J.L. Meyer, P.J. Robinson, J.R. Stenberg, R.E. Turner, et al. 1997. Effects of climate change on freshwater ecosystems of the south-eastern United States and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Hydrological Processes 11: 949–970.
OWRB (Oklahoma Water Resources Board). 2012. Oklahoma comprehensive water plan. http://www.owrb.ok.gov/supply/ocwp/ocwp.php. Accessed 11 Feb 2013.
Pederson, N., A.R. Bell, T.A. Knight, C. Leland, N. Malcomb, K.J. Anchukaitis, K. Tackett, J. Scheff, et al. 2012. A long-term perspective on a modern drought in the American Southeast. Environmental Research Letters 7: 014034.
Peterson, J.T., J.M. Wisniewski, C.P. Shea, and C.R. Jackson. 2011. Estimation of mussel population response to hydrologic alteration in a Southeastern US stream. Environmental Management 48: 109–122.
Poff, N.L., J.D. Olden, D.M. Merritt, and D.M. Pepin. 2007. Homogenization of regional river dynamics by dams and global biodiversity implications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104: 5732–5737.
Richter, B.D. 2010. Re-thinking environmental flows: From allocations and reserves to sustainability boundaries. River Research and Applications 26: 1052–1063.
Richter, B.D., R. Mathews, and R. Wigington. 2003. Ecologically sustainable water management: Managing river flows for ecological integrity. Ecological Applications 13: 206–224.
Rood, S.B., G.M. Samuelson, J.H. Braatne, C.R. Gourley, F.M.R. Hughes, and J.M. Mahoney. 2005. Managing river flows to restore floodplain forests. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 193–201.
Roy, A.H., M.C. Freeman, B.J. Freeman, S.J. Wenger, W.E. Ensign, and J.L. Meyer. 2005. Investigating hydrologic alteration as a mechanism of fish assemblage shifts in urbanizing streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24: 656–678.
Rypel, A.L., W.R. Haag, and R.H. Findlay. 2009. Pervasive hydrologic effects on freshwater mussels and riparian trees in southeastern floodplain ecosystems. Wetlands 29: 497–504.
Sabo, J.L., T. Sinha, L.C. Bowling, G.H.W. Schoups, W.W. Wallender, M.E. Campana, K.A. Cherkauer, P.L. Fuller, et al. 2010. Reclaiming freshwater sustainability in the Cadillac Desert. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 21263–21270.
Spooner, D.E., and C.C. Vaughn. 2008. A trait-based approach to species’ roles in stream ecosystems: Climate change, community structure, and material cycling. Oecologia 158: 307–317.
Spooner, D.E., and C.C. Vaughn. 2009. Species richness and temperature influence mussel biomass: A partitioning approach applied to natural communities. Ecology 90: 781–790.
Spooner, D.E., and C.C. Vaughn. 2012. Species dominance and environmental gradients interact to govern primary production in freshwater mussel communities. Oikos 121: 403–416.
Spooner, D.E., M.A. Xenopoulos, C. Schneider, and D.A. Woolnough. 2011. Coextirpation of host-affiliate relationships in rivers: The role of climate change, water withdrawal, and host-specificity. Global Change Biology 17: 1720–1732.
Strayer, D.L. 2008. Freshwater mussel ecology: A multifactor approach to distribution and abundance. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Strayer, D.L., J.A. Downing, W.R. Haag, T.L. King, J.B. Layzer, T.J. Newton, and S.J. Nichols. 2004. Changing perspectives on pearly mussels, North America’s most imperiled animals. BioScience 54: 429–439.
Travnichek, V.H., M.B. Bain, and M.J. Maceina. 1995. Recovery of a warmwater fish assemblage after the initiation of a minimum-flow release downstream from a hydroelectric dam. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 124: 836–844.
USACE (United States Army Corp of Engineers). 2010. National inventory of dams. http://geo.usace.army.mil/pgis/f?p=397:1:0. Accessed 11 Feb 2013.
Vaughn, C.C. 2010. Biodiversity losses and ecosystem function in freshwaters: Emerging conclusions and research directions. BioScience 60: 25–35.
Vaughn, C.C. 2012. Life history traits and abundance can predict local colonisation and extinction rates of freshwater mussels. Freshwater Biology 57: 982–992.
Vaughn, C.C., and M. Pyron. 1995. Population ecology of the endangered Ouachita Rock Pocketbook mussel, Arkansia wheeleri (Bivalvia: Unionidae), in the Kiamichi River, Oklahoma. American Malacological Bulletin 11: 145–151.
Vaughn, C.C., and C.M. Taylor. 1999. Impoundments and the decline of freshwater mussels: A case study of an extinction gradient. Conservation Biology 13: 912–920.
Vaughn, C.C., D.E. Spooner, and H.S. Galbraith. 2007. Context-dependent species identity effects within a functional group of filter-feeding bivalves. Ecology 88: 1654–1662.
Funding for this project was provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (Projects E-12, E-59, T-10, and T-38) and the National Science Foundation (DEB-0211010, DEB-9306687, DEB-9870092, and DBI-1103500). We thank many people who contributed in the field, particularly M. Craig, K. Eberhard, J. Hilliard, D. Partridge, M. Pyron, C. Taylor, and M. Winston in the 1990s; and W. Allen, S. Dengler, D. Fenolio, K. Hobson, D. Morris, and K. Reagan in the 2000s. R. McPherson of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey provided Mesonet data. We thank the Little River Wildlife Refuge for cooperation in establishing sampling sites on managed lands, and private landowners for access to other sampling sites. This is a contribution to the program of the Oklahoma Biological Survey.
About this article
Cite this article
Allen, D.C., Galbraith, H.S., Vaughn, C.C. et al. A Tale of Two Rivers: Implications of Water Management Practices for Mussel Biodiversity Outcomes During Droughts. AMBIO 42, 881–891 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-013-0420-8
- Minimum flows
- Hydrologic alteration
- Environmental flows
- Freshwater mussel
- Indicator species