Effective conservation of mussels in streams of the lower Flint River basin, southwest Georgia, requires more rigorous understanding of mussel-habitat associations and factors shaping assemblage composition in stream reaches. We surveyed mussels and habitat conditions at 46 locations, and used regression, correlation and multivariate direct gradient analysis (Canonical Correspondence Analyses) to identify species-habitat relationships and characteristic species-assemblage types in Flint basin streams. Riparian wetland and catchment forest cover, average mid-channel depth, and drainage network position accounted for 49% of the variability in mussel species richness, 36% of the variability in unionid abundance, and 32% of the variability observed in Shannon-Wiener diversity across survey sites. Species were grouped into four assemblage types based on their habitat associations: large-river-riffle associates, slackwater associates, habitat generalists, and stream-run associates. Results are broadly concordant with anecdotal reports of mussel-habitat relationships and provide insight into the habitat conservation needs of mussels.
Additional publication details
Unionid habitat and assemblage composition in coastal plain tributaries of the Flint River (Georgia)