Robert Krebs, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Cleveland State University
Location: Lake Erie, Ohio's north coast
Research: Recolonization of Lake Erie's Near Shore Environment by Freshwater Mussels
Species/Topic: Freshwater mussels of the family, Unionidae
Abstract: Proposed is a study of the mussels presently inhabiting Lake Erie's near shore environments. The scourge of zebra mussels swept through Lake Erie in the early and mid 1990's where they remain a significant concern to the diversity of benthic organisms, particularly in the western basin. Perhaps the part of the native fauna most heavily hit were freshwater mussels in the family Unionidae, and only a proportion of these species survived in shallow estuarine refugia and marshes along the shoreline. As recent observations suggest that the invasive zebra and now quagga mussels (collectively dreissenids) are becoming patchy in their distributions, I seek to determine whether unionid mussels are beginning to recolonize the lake. While not abundant, some fresh shells, unencumbered by zebra mussels, once again can be found along some beaches. It is therefore critical to produce base-line information about the source locations, diversity, and abundance of the species producing these shells. The critical questions include whether individual mussels are beginning to reestablish breeding lake populations or if they are occasional remnants or migrants that died soon after reaching maturity, which is the time when they move above the sand and can be negatively impacted by their dreissenid competitors. Larval mussels live briefly as glochidia on the gills or scales of fish enabling them to colonize the lake from near-lake refugia. Plans for protecting such sensitive refugial and shore-line habitats need to consider potential interactions between these aquatic systems especially with respect to the state-protected native mussels.