Previous freshwater mussel surveys conducted in Copper Creek showed a decline in the fauna from 1980 to 1998. In 2004 and 2005, we sampled 47 sites acquiring relative abundance estimates (measured in catch-per-unit-effort) to assess the current status of the mussel fauna relative to previous surveys. We also obtained absolute density estimates for 4 select sites for comparison with future and past surveys. Of the 25 mussel species reported from this and previous surveys, 16 were represented by living specimens, 5 are extant but may soon be extirpated, and 8 are likely extirpated from the creek. Presence-absence analysis showed a significant decline in species per site since 1980. Absolute density estimates (at Copper Creek river km 3.1) decreased significantly from 4.07 mussels/m2 in 1981 to 0.63 mussels/m2 in 2005. The cause of this faunal decline is likely due to several factors, including, most notably, the loss of riparian buffers. Nearly half of the stream banks in Copper Creek have inadequate riparian vegetation to provide even minimal sediment control. Precipitous declines of the Clinch River fauna (a likely source population for several species) may be another significant factor influencing the faunal decline in Copper Creek. Despite these declines, populations of several species may be in a state of recovery. Based on 18 comparable sites, average catch-per-unit-effort in 2005 was 25.16 mussels/hr, significantly higher than the 1998 survey (12.92 mussels/hr).
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Status of native freshwater mussels in copper creek, virginia