Mussel Restoration

Creatures that Filter
Mussel Restoration
Creatures that Filter

Freshwater Mussels - A Storymap

Freshwater mussels are fascinating creatures, and you can get an in-depth look at their lasting impact on the environment in this Storymap. Click to read.

Why are mussels important?

Mussels are filter feeders, and an adult freshwater mussel can filter between 10-20 gallons of water a day. They are very efficient at filtering sediments, nutrients, and bacteria like E. coli from the Anacostia River. By removing suspended sediment from the water column, mussels help improve water clarity, leading to the good conditions for submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) to grow.  This system then provides habitat for a myriad of other species, where even empty mussel shells become a tiny home for other bottom dwelling invertebrates and small fish. The shells also help the plants by being a substrate for algae and aquatic vegetation. By restoring mussel populations, we are helping improve water quality and enhance the aquatic ecosystems of the Anacostia River.  Not only that, they are tremendous bioindicators, and if there is too much pollution like heavy metals and other toxics, the mussels don't survive.

How mussels are being threatened?

 Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in North America with 70% of their species listed as vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. Sadly, a total of 37 species are now considered extinct according to scientists. Why? The dramatic decline is due to severe habitat destruction, water pollution, climate change, damming, the introduction of invasive species, a decline in the populations of their host fishes and over exploitation of water resources (i.e. for agriculture and other uses).    About 300 species of freshwater mussels have been identified in the United States and the highest species diversity is found in the Southeast region of the country. A total of 16 species has been identified in the state of Maryland, and at least 8 of those species are found in the Anacostia River (both in Maryland and DC), according to an assessment done by the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

AWS Accomplishments in Mussel Restoration

We are currently propagating freshwater mussels in the Anacostia River. As of 2019 we are working with over 9,000 mussels of 3 different native species: Eastern lampmussel, Eastern pondmussel, and Alewife floater, the last two species being  Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in both Maryland and DC. Since 2019, we have released more than 24,000 mussels into the Anacostia River, which will filter the equivalent of 132 Olympic-sizedswimming pools on an annual basis. Our goal is to propagate and introduce these mussels into the river so that more mussels filter more water therefore improving the water clarity and the aquatic ecosystems. 

Stay up-to-date on #MusselPower!

We've done a series of blog posts about how our mussel program is going!  Click here to see all the blog posts about the project.

How Can you Help?

Our mussel restoration program can always use your financial support (click here to donate). You also can join our special team of mussel volunteers.

Since the activities related to this project don't normally require large groups of people, we are asking people to be put in wait list and then we will invite people in the wait list to mussel monitoring and basket maintenance days. Volunteering may involve walking in mud/water (in both hot or cold temperatures) with boots or waders, lifting weight (20-30 lbs), and other minor physical activities outdoors. 

Click here to join our #MusselPower volunteer email list.

Interested in engaging your students in mussel restoration?  Visit our Mussel Power program page to learn more.

More in this category: « Meadow Restoration
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