Current Conditions of Historical Mussel Habitat in the Flint River Basin, Georgia
Muenz, Tara K.
Opsahl, Stephen P.
Golladay, Stephen W.
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Streams of the Flint River Basin (FRB) remain as viable habitat for many freshwater species and harbor some of the most diverse mussel assemblages in the Southeast. However, land use changes, hydrologic alterations, and declines in native fish species have adversely affected mussel diversity and abundance throughout the region. Protection of rare and sensitive mussels requires the development of timely conservation strategies, supported by knowledge of current riparian and instream habitat conditions that impact their survival and recovery. We examined habitat conditions and selected water quality parameters at 81 stream sites that have historically supported populations of freshwater mussel species in the Basin. Higher nutrient, sediment, and bacterial concentrations were observed in the upper portion (Piedmont) of the Basin, which is characterized by higher gradient streams and percentages of urban land use. Sites in the lower section of the Basin (Fall Line Hills and Coastal Plain) maintained better quality riparian habitat including a larger buffer zone width, greater bank stability, and more vegetative cover. Overall, mussel habitat quality appeared good throughout the Basin. Physicochemical parameters and riparian habitat quality were influenced both by regional geologic differences and patterns of human activity.