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American Midland Naturalist


Habitat destruction is believed to be the number one cause of the decline in unionid mussels. Around the world, cities, towns and agriculture alter the structure of watersheds, and the Black River in Ohio may be a typical example. We investigated the diversity and abundance of unionid mussels in this watershed and compared results to urbanization locations, to site-specific appearance of the habitat and to a 1997 fish survey, as host species are another factor important to the distribution of unionid mussels. Although shells were found for 21 species, only 11 of these species were found alive. Seven of the species represented only by shells occurred only in the urbanized lower main stem of the river and less than five shells were found for each. Most of these shells were old and worn. Furthermore, the present assemblage in the main stem varied from shells obtained at a nearby archeological site, and from a voucher set of species obtained at the turn of the 20th Century. Mussel communities higher in the river and those in tributaries were less diverse, but abundance of the species present was higher than in the main stem. A lack of fish hosts may limit mussel diversity, as hosts for several species present in the main stem do not reside higher in the watershed. Overall, mussel assemblages in the Black River appear typical for the region with relatively abundant, but low diversity communities upstream of the cities that line Lake Erie's coast and diverse, but small and potentially threatened, populations in the urban regions.


Research was supported by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DBI 0243878) award from NSF to Mike Walton at CSU, and by small grants from Sea Grant (R/LR-9-PD) and an EFFRD award to RAK by Cleveland State University.