Effect of Riparian Vegetation Buffers on Unionid Mussel Habitats

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Authors

Lu, Al

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Publisher

University of Guelph

Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of riparian vegetation buffers at conserving juvenile mussel habitats. Habitat quality and mussel assemblages were compared between mussel beds in intact buffer sites (buffers > 30 m; n = 4) vs. fragmented buffer sites (buffers < 20 m; n = 4) in the East and North Sydenham River (Ontario). A partial least square (PLM) path analysis indicated strong associations between good habitat quality (low ammonia, high DO, high diatom and chlorophytes, low cyanobacteria) and high hyporheic hydraulic conductivity resulting from low fine sediments. Comparisons of habitat quality between sites on the East and North Sydenham River revealed higher quality habitats in sites with intact vs. fragmented buffers, though differences were not significant in the north branch possible due to geomorphology containing more fine sediments. Adult mussels were located more in higher quality habitats, suggesting that riparian buffers can maintain good mussel habitats. However, conclusions on juvenile mussel habitats could not be made due to low observations. This study provides evidence for the importance of riparian buffers for maintaining mussel habitats, and the impact of fine sediments on habitat quality.

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Keywords

Unionid, Riparian Buffers, Porewater, Unionid Habitat, Hyporheic Sediments

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