Community and foodweb ecology of freshwater mussels

  • Vaughn C
  • Nichols S
  • Spooner D
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Freshwater mussel (Superfamily Unionoidea) communities are important components of food webs, and they link and influence multiple trophic levels. Mussels filter food from both the water column and sediment with ciliated gills. Differences in cilia structure and arrangement might allow mussel species to partition food resources. Mussels are omnivores that feed across trophic levels on bacteria, algae, detritus, zooplankton, and perhaps, dissolved organic matter. Living mussels and their spent shells provide or improve habitat for other organisms by providing physical structure, stabilizing and bioturbating sediments, and influencing food availability directly and indirectly through biodeposition of organic matter and nutrient excretion. Effects of mussel communities on nutrient translocation and cycling depend on mussel abundance, species composition, and environmental conditions. Nutrient-related mussel effects influence multiple trophic levels. Healthy mussel communities occur as multispecies assemblages in which species interactions are probably very important. Food limitation and competition among species have been documented, but so have positive species interactions, and rare species have been shown to benefit energetically from living in species-rich communities. Effects of mussel species on ecosystem services and food webs vary across spatial and temporal scales, and the relative importance of competition and facilitation might change at different scales.

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  • Caryn C. Vaughn

  • S. Jerrine Nichols

  • Daniel E. Spooner

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