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Fine sediment as environmental stressor affecting freshwater mussel behavior and ecosystem services

Lummer, Eva-Maria, Auerswald, Karl, Geist, Juergen
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.571 pp. 1340-1348
adults, aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, ecosystem services, fauna, filtration, freshwater, mussels, particle size, rivers, sediment contamination, sediments, streams, suspended sediment, turbidity, water purification
Fine sediment pollution is considered a major stressor for aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity. In particular, fine sediments have been suggested to play a crucial role in the declines of freshwater mussels which are considered keystone fauna of streams and rivers. Whereas the effects of deposited fine sediments on recruitment failure are well known, effects of suspended fine sediments on adult mussel behavior are less studied. Therefore the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of fine sediment exposure on freshwater mussel behavior and on mussel-dependent ecosystem services. Unio pictorum mussels were used to test three behavioral endpoints: Hall activity, transition frequency and relative water clearance rate. Mussels were exposed to fine sediments of different particle size classes (<45μm, 45–63μm, 63–125μm) and different concentration (0–10gL−1) of the smallest particle size class. Hall sensor technology and turbidity measurements were used to detect mussel behavior in presence of suspended sediments. Results revealed that mussels improve clearance of suspended particles out of the water column by 35%, independent of particle size class and concentration. Transition frequency was determined an unsuitable behavioral endpoint for non-soluble substances. Contrary to previous studies, we could demonstrate that fine sediments do not interfere with filtration by mussels and that mussels have a great influence on water purification, providing a valuable ecosystem service.