Investigating the potential geomorphic implications of sediment modification by freshwater mussels

Authors: Matthew Koerner*, University of Alabama
Topics: Geomorphology
Keywords: fluvial geomorphology, ecogeomorphology, biogeomorphology, freshwater mussels
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In many rivers throughout the United States, freshwater mussels play important roles for the functioning of ecosystems. Recent flume studies have revealed the potential for freshwater mussels to modify physical sediment properties. Few studies regarding the relationships between mussels and physical sediment properties have been performed under natural flow conditions, and have considered the localized complexity of freshwater mussel community structure. Freshwater mussels may influence the transport of sediment by bioadhesion, compaction, armoring or bioturbation of river bed material. In rivers where mussels dominate the benthic biomass, sediment modification may considerably affect the antecedent stability of river bed material during high flow periods, thus affecting the resiliency of benthic ecosystems and the evolution of a channels morphology over time. We developed a novel in-stream mussel enclosure experiment and set of procedures to better understand the dominant mechanisms by which freshwater mussel communities modify sediment properties under natural flow conditions, and the implications for sediment transport within a river. We deployed 36 mussel enclosures in the Sipsey River, Alabama (USA) for a 9-week period, with varying abundance and species treatments. Our methods include sliding-bead monitors, underwater photography, particle size analysis and smear-slides to analyze the micro-scale modifications to sediment by mussels during the experiment. In this poster, we present the methods and preliminary results of our in-stream manipulation experiment.

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