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Freshwater mussel conservation: A global horizon scan of emerging threats and opportunities

Formally Refereed
Authors: David C. Aldridge, Isobel S. Ollard, Yulia V Bespalaya, Ivan N. Bolotov, Karel Douda, Juergen Geist, Wendell R. Haag, Michael W. Klunzinger, Manuel Lopes‐Lima, Musa C. Mlambo, Nicoletta Riccardi, Ronaldo Sousa, David L. Strayer, Santiago H. Torres, Caryn C. Vaughn, Tadeusz Zając, Alexandra Zieritz
Year: 2023
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Global Change Biology


We identified 14 emerging and poorly understood threats and opportunities for addressing the global conservation of freshwater mussels over the next decade. A panel of 17 researchers and stakeholders from six continents submitted a total of 56 topics
that were ranked and prioritized using a consensus-building Delphi technique. Our 14 priority topics fell into five broad themes (autecology, population dynamics, global stressors, global diversity, and ecosystem services) and included understanding diets
throughout mussel life history; identifying the drivers of population declines; defining metrics for quantifying mussel health; assessing the role of predators, parasites, and disease; informed guidance on the risks and opportunities for captive breeding and translocations; the loss of mussel–fish co-evolutionary relationships; assessing the effects of increasing surface water changes; understanding the effects of sand and aggregate mining; understanding the effects of drug pollution and other emerging contaminants such as nanomaterials; appreciating the threats and opportunities arising from river restoration; conserving understudied hotspots by building local capacity through the principles of decolonization; identifying appropriate taxonomic units for conservation; improved quantification of the ecosystem services provided by mussels; and understanding how many mussels are enough to provide these services. Solutions for addressing the topics ranged from ecological studies to technological advances and socio-political engagement. Prioritization of our topics can help to drive a proactive approach to the conservation of this declining group which provides a multitude of important ecosystem services.


conservation, diversity, ecosystem services, freshwater mussel, horizon scan, mussel health, threats, unionid


Aldridge, David C.; Ollard, Isobel S.; Bespalaya, Yulia V.; Bolotov, Ivan N.; Douda, Karel; Geist, Juergen; Haag, Wendell R.; Klunzinger, Michael W.; Lopes Lima, Manuel; Mlambo, Musa C.; Riccardi, Nicoletta; Sousa, Ronaldo; Strayer, David L.; Torres, Santiago H.; Vaughn, Caryn C.; Zaj c, Tadeusz; Zieritz, Alexandra. 2023. Freshwater mussel conservation: A global horizon scan of emerging threats and opportunities. Global Change Biology. 29(3): 575-589.