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Freshwater mussels (bivalvia: unionidae) of the village creek drainage basin in southeast texas.

Abstract. -- A total of 18 species and 2,235 individuals of freshwater mussels were collected from 22 sites in the Village Creek basin. The number of individuals per site ranged from zero to 528 and the number of species per site ranged from zero to 13. Relative abundance for all collection sites varied from zero to 176 individuals/person-hours. Quadrula mortoni and Fusconaia askewi comprised 60 percent of the total individuals collected and relative abundance was 14.8 and 13.1 individuals/person-hours, respectively. Lampsilis satura, Obovaria jacksoniana and Pleurobema riddellii were collected at several sites and are listed as "of special concern" by the American Fisheries Society.

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Freshwater mussels are good indicators of water quality and are often the first organism to decline during adverse conditions (Rosenburg & Resh 1993; Howells et al. 1996; Howells 1997). Howells et al. (1997) reported that 52 species of freshwater bivalves occurred in Texas and discussed 18 that were dramatically reduced in abundance. Williams et al. (1993) listed 17 of these 52 species as threatened, endangered, or of special concern. This survey of the freshwater bivalves of the Village Creek drainage basin evaluates the current status of the populations and will serve as a baseline reference for subsequent studies.

There has been no extensive study of the bivalves of Village Creek. Strecker (1931) and Parks (1938) listed some bivalves that occurred in Village Creek, but these works are dated and uncertainties in systematics limit their present day use. Vidrine (1990) surveyed one location in Village Creek for his study of parasitic mites of freshwater mussels. Howells et al. (1996) listed some mussels known to have occurred in Village Creek, but in a later paper (Howells 1997) on the status of mussels in the Big Thicket region he mentioned an unsuccessful effort by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel to collect any living mussels from Village Creek.

Several studies have been conducted on the physical/chemical conditions and macrobenthos of Village Creek and its tributaries (Tatum & Commander 1971; Harrel 1977; Kost 1977; Lewis & Harrel 1978; Commander 1980; Newberry 1982; Harrel 1985; Barclay & Harrel 1985), but the sampling techniques were not adequate to survey the bivalve fauna. Nearby Texas and Louisiana mussel surveys were conducted by Neck (1986), Feaster (1997), Howells (2000) and Vidrine (2001).

DESCRIPTION OF THE AREA

Village Creek is a 5th order stream located in Hardin, Tyler and Polk counties in southeast Texas (Figure 1). From its origin, near the city of Livingston in Tyler County, it flows southeasterly into the Neches River. The basin drains an area of approximately 2,883 k[m.sup.2] and has an axial length of 125 km. Land uses in the basin consist of lumber production, several small municipalities (< 10,000 residents) and scat-tered residential developments. Some reaches of Village Creek and its tributaries are within the boundaries of the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, the Big Thicket National Preserve, Roy Larsen Nature Conservancy Sanctuary and Village Creek State Park. The remaining sections of the stem stream of Village Creek, from the Big Thicket National Preserve Big Sandy Creek Unit to the confluence with the Neches River are proposed as additions to the Big Thicket National Preserve (Big Thicket National Preserve 1996).

The shallow substrate in the stream channel consisted of fine and coarse sand with pockets of silt, detritus and clay. Sunken logs are abundant. The average gradient is 0.38 m/km and the minimum and maximum daily discharge based on 66 years of record was 1.8 [m.sup.3]/sec and 131.6 [m.sup.3]/sec (USGS 2001). Dominant vegetation along the stream banks consists of Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo), Betula nigra (river birch) and Quercus sp. (water tolerant oaks).

METHODS

Twenty-two sites were sampled between 9 August 2001 and 25 November 2002 (Figure 1). Seventeen sites were located along the lower stem stream and five sites were in smaller tributaries. Vidrine (1998) reported that small to moderate size streams resulted in low to moderate mussel diversity and larger, downstream reaches often had higher diversity and larger populations. At each site, 1.5 to 3 person-hours were spent hand-searching the substrate for mussels, covering an average of 50 meters of shoreline. Vaughn (1995) and Hornbach & Deneka (1996) stated that non-quantitative random time search methods are preferred when examining the distribution of freshwater mussels. Sampling was done only during relatively low stream discharge and depth conditions as indicated by the U.S. Geological Survey gauging station 08041500 located near Kountze, Texas (USGS 2001). Mean water depth for all collecting dates was 1.2 m and mean discharge was 5.6 [m.sup.3]/sec. These conditions allowed productive sampling, which could not have occurred at greater depth or discharge.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Living mussels collected were identified, counted and measured. Most specimens were returned to the stream, but some were retained in order to confirm identification or to be used as reference specimens. Dead shell material was not documented. Retained specimens were returned to the laboratory and placed in three percent ethyl alcohol to cause the valves to gape, then preserved in 95 percent ethyl alcohol. Identifications were made using the following taxonomic references; Burch (1973), Cummings & Mayer (1992), McMahon (1991), Howells et al. (1996) and Vidrine (2001). Robert Howells (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department), verified the identifications. Common and scientific names are those of Turgeon et al. (1998).

Voucher specimens were placed in a collection at Lamar University. Relative abundance of all mussels for each collection site was calculated by the formula: number of individuals of all species collected/person-hours (48) spent collecting at that site. Relative abundance for each species was determined by the formula: number of individuals of a species collected/total person-hours (48) for entire study.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

During the study, 18 species of unionds and 2,235 individuals were collected during a total of 48 person-hours (Table 1). The number of species per collection site ranged from zero at site 9 to 13 at sites 1, 2 and 3 (Table 2). The number of individuals per collection site ranged from zero (site 9) to 528 (site 3). No mussels were found at site 9 after 2.25 person-hours of searching. This was probably due to the unsuitable habitat that was composed of steep cut clay banks and tree roots, which made searching difficult. Relative abundance of all mussels at individual collection sites ranged from zero (site 9) to 176 (site 3) per person-hour (Table 2).

Site 3 had a large diversity of microhabitats including substrate types, variations in flow, and a large area of suitable depth for collecting. Site 3 is the location where Vidrine (1990) collected and removed 1,000 individuals for his study of mites associated with mussels. Site 3 is also the location where Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel reported finding no living mussels (Howells et al. 1996). This was probably due to their collecting method. They used a brail, which cannot be effectively utilized in Village Creek due to the amount of sunken trees.

Quadrula mortoni and Fusconaia askewi were the most abundant species, representing 31.8 and 28.2 percent, respectively, of the total number of individuals collected during the study (Table 3). Relative abundance of Q. mortoni and F. askewi was 14.8/person-hour and 13.1/person-hour, respectively. Quadrula mortoni occurred at 20 collecting sites and F. askewi occurred at 18 sites. These species are euryecious and were found in all types of substrates and were often the only species found in coarse sand away from the shore. One specimen of F. askewi measured 74 mm in shell length, which exceeds the maximum length recorded for Texas waters (Howells et al. 1996). Uniomerus tetralasmus was the least abundant species and was collected only in two tributary streams; one specimen each in Beech Creek (site 12) and Turkey Creek (site 13). This species is adapted for desiccation, dewatering and stagnant water (Neck & Metcalf 1988; Cummings & Mayer 1992) and was the only species collected only in smaller tributary streams.

Three species found during this study are listed as of "special concern" by the American Fisheries Society (Williams et al. 1993). These include Lampsilis satura, Obovaria jacksoniana and Pleurobema riddellii. Only eight living specimens of L. satura had been reported in the Big Thicket region during the past five years (Howells 1997). During this study 33 specimens from seven sites were collected (Tables 1 & 3). Howells (1997) reported that only one dead shell of Obovaria jacksoniana had been found in Texas since 1990. During this study, 16 specimens of O. jacksoniana were collected from four sites (Tables 1 & 3). Since 1987, only two living and two dead specimens of P. riddellii have been reported from the central Neches River in Texas (Howells 1997). During this survey 11 specimens from four sites were collected (Tables 1 & 3).

Seven species of mussels were considered to be uncommon or rare and represented less than one percent of the total number collected and their relative abundance was less than 0.5 clams per person-hour (Table 3). Three species of mussels that were previously collected in Village Creek or the nearby Neches River during benthic surveys, but not during this study, include Glebula rotundata, Quadrula apiculata and Megalonaias nervosa. The exotic Asiatic clam, Corbicula fluminea, was noted at sites 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 20, but it was abundant only at sites 11 and 13 in Turkey Creek.

The results of this study indicate that Village Creek supports a diverse and healthy bivalve fauna. However, Neck (1982), Samad & Stanley (1986), Alderman & Adams (1993), Layzer & Gordon (1993) Neves (1993) and Howells (2000) reported that habitat alterations in and around waterways adversely alter mussel habitats. Within the basin, current and projected residential development and economic growth, together with increased recreational usage of Village Creek, may effect bivalve populations. The bivalve fauna should be monitored closely in the future to ensure protection of these organisms.
Table 1. Total number of living individuals of each species collected at
each site sampled. (Total number of person-hours spent = 48.)

 Site
 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Amblema plicata 13 11 31 4 4 14 5 1 0 0 0
Fusconaia askewi 11 8 212 2 26 1 0 11 0 0 11
Fusconaia flava 2 3 12 0 5 0 0 5 0 0 6
Lampsilis hydiana 5 10 25 2 26 34 9 7 0 0 0
Lampsilis satura 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lampsilis teres 2 8 20 4 6 4 4 0 0 0 0
Leptodea fragilis 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Obliquaria reflexa 0 0 0 3 1 1 0 1 0 0 0
Obovaria jacksoniana 0 6 0 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Plectomerus dombeyanus 1 1 21 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 0
Pleurobema riddellii 1 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Potamilus purpuratus 2 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Quadrula mortoni 61 86 185 82 41 3 54 12 0 3 18
Quadrula nobilis 7 8 15 5 5 1 2 4 0 0 3
Toxolasma texasiensis 0 0 2 3 3 16 0 3 0 0 0
Tritogonia verrucosa 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Uniomerus tetralasmus 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Villosa lienosa 1 4 1 0 9 14 0 3 0 0 0
Total 111 152 528 109 130 91 76 47 0 3 41

 Site
 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Amblema plicata 0 0 7 9 25 4 6 8 15 5 4
Fusconaia askewi 37 0 89 10 24 58 13 61 28 15 14
Fusconaia flava 6 0 7 2 16 3 4 3 2 5 0
Lampsilis hydiana 1 0 0 2 4 18 7 3 8 4 5
Lampsilis satura 0 0 0 17 2 3 0 1 0 3 0
Lampsilis teres 0 0 0 1 2 3 4 0 6 4 0
Leptodea fragilis 0 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Obliquaria reflexa 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Obovaria jacksoniana 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0
Plectomerus dombeyanus 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 0
Pleurobema riddellii 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Potamilus purpuratus 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Quadrula mortoni 1 0 10 10 33 18 23 9 21 31 7
Quadrula nobilis 1 0 3 5 15 6 8 30 14 10 0
Toxolasma texasiensis 0 0 3 44 0 4 4 0 4 3 0
Tritogonia verrucosa 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Uniomerus tetralasmus 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Villosa lienosa 1 0 1 0 0 0 5 1 4 6 0
Total 49 1 128 109 126 117 74 120 106 88 30

Table 2. Number of species collected, mussels collected, person-hours
spent collecting, and relative abundance for each collecting site. Data
indicates living specimens only.

Site Species Number Person-hours Relative
 collected collected abundance

 1 13 111 3 37
 2 13 152 3 51
 3 13 528 3 176
 4 9 109 2 55
 5 12 130 2 65
 6 11 91 2.50 36
 7 6 76 2 38
 8 9 47 2 24
 9 0 0 2.25 0
10 1 3 3 1
11 5 41 2 21
12 8 49 3 16
13 1 1 2.25 0.4
14 9 128 3 43
15 11 109 2 55
16 10 126 1.5 84
17 9 117 1.5 78
18 9 74 1.5 49
19 10 120 2 60
20 9 106 1.5 71
21 12 88 1.5 59
22 4 30 1.5 20

Table 3. Total number of sites where species occurred, total number of
individuals collected, percentages of all individuals collected, and
relative abundance of each species (in order of relative abundance).
Data indicates living specimens only.

 Site Number % of total Relative
Species frequency collected collected abundance

Quadrula mortoni 20 712 31.8% 14.8
Fusconaia askewi 18 631 28.2% 13.1
Lampsilis hydiana 17 170 7.6% 3.5
Amblema plicata 17 166 7.4% 3.5
Quadrula nobilis 18 135 6.3% 2.9
Fusconaia flava 15 101 4.5% 1.7
Toxolasma texasiensis 11 89 4.0% 1.9
Lampsilis teres 13 68 3.0% 1.4
Villosa lienosa 12 50 2.2% 1.0
Lampsilis satura 7 33 1.4% .7
Plectomerus dombeyanus 9 33 1.4% .7
Obovaria jacksoniana 4 16 < 1% .3
Pleurobema riddellii 5 11 < 1% .2
Leptodea fragilis 3 11 < 1% .2
Tritogonia verrucosa 4 10 < 1% .2
Potamilus purpuratus 4 6 < 1% .1
Obliquaria reflexa 5 7 < 1% .1
Uniomerus tetralasmus 2 2 < 1% < .1


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This study was funded by a student research award from the Texas Academy of Science to V. Bordelon and a Lamar University Scholar award to R. Harrel.

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Vickie L. Bordelon and Richard C. Harrel

Department of Biology

Lamar University

Beaumont, Texas 77710

VLB at: VBordelon@aol.com
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Author:Bordelon, Vickie L.; Harrel, Richard C.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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