Since the early 1990s, more than 95 percent of the freshwater clams once found in Lake Erie have died due to the exotic zebara mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Zebra mussels attach themselves to native clams in large numbers, impeding the ability of the clams to eat and burrow. However, in 1996, we discovered a population of native clams in Metzger Marsh in western Lake Erie (about 50 miles [80 km] east of Toledo) that were thriving despite the longtime presence of zebra mussel in surrounding waters. At that time, Metzger Marsh was undergoing extensive restoration, including construction of a dike to replace the eroded barrier beach and of a water-control structure to maintain hydrologic connections with the lake (Wilcox and Whillans 1999). The restoration plan called for a drawdown of water levels to promote plant growth from the seedbank -- a process that would also destroy most of the clam population. State and federal resource managers recommended removing as many clams as possible to a site that was isolated from zebra mussels, and then returning them to the marsh after it was restored. We removed about 7,000 native clams in 1996 and moved them back to Metzger Marsh in 1999.
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Great Lakes clams find refuge from zebra mussels in restored, lake-connected marsh (Ohio)