Role of stream, habitat, and density in predicting translocation success in the threatened Louisiana pearlshell, Margaritifera hembeli (Conrad)

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We translocated Margaritifera hembeli in 2 streams in central Louisiana to investigate the role of stream, habitat (riffle vs pool), and population density in determining the survival, movement, and growth of transplanted mussels. Translocated animals survived well, although 1 translocation site with few resident mussels suffered high mussel mortality from a spate. Translocated animals grew at rates similar to control animals, especially if moved upstream, but moved at greater rates, especially in high-density riffles. Growth rates differed between streams, and were greater in riffles than in pools; pools, where resident mussels are rare, may be suboptimal habitats for growth. Density had variable effects on growth, and growth rates in some cases actually increased with density. Mussels at higher densities may be feeding on bacteria colonizing pseudofeces or have reduced respiration rates, explaining higher growth rates. Our results suggest that translocation is a viable short-term management strategy for endangered margaritiferids threatened by habitat alteration, and that habitat and population density affect mussel survival and growth.

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Journal of the North American Benthological Society

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