Research Freshwater Ecosystems: Mussels
The freshwater mussel program of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, or NRI, and Texas Water Resources Institute works to understand more about the population distribution, life history characteristics, and conservation status of Texas' freshwater mussels. The team's research takes place as freshwater ecosystems experience a far greater biodiversity decline than what is seen in most other affected terrestrial ecosystems. This decline has been especially severe for certain groups of aquatic biota, including freshwater mussels (Unionidae), which are now considered the most imperiled of all aquatic fauna.
Of the 300 mussel species known to have occurred in the United States, 12 percent are thought to be extinct; 23 percent are considered threatened or endangered.
Meanwhile across Texas, distribution and abundance declines have led to the listing of 15 species (roughly 29 percent of Texas' 52 described species) as "threatened" at the state level. Of those, 12 species are either candidates for listing under the national Endangered Species Act (ESA) or are still being considered for protection under the ESA.
Freshwater Mussels are good indicators of ecological health. Our program explores declining mussel populations in Texas to provide critical information on preserving river ecosystems as Texans depend on river water resources.