A Tale of Two Rivers: Implications of Water Management Practices for Mussel Biodiversity Outcomes During Droughts

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Daniel C. Allen.

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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

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Keywords

  • Drought
  • Minimum flows
  • Hydrologic alteration
  • Environmental flows
  • Unionoida
  • Freshwater mussel
  • Indicator species