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Absence of freshwater mussels in Europe in relation to climate-related environmental factors

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Published on 23/05/2018 by Collas, F. P. L., Buijse, A. D., Hendriks, A. J., van der Velde, G., & Leuven, R. S. E. W.

Contact details

Frank Collas

Radboud University Nijmegen

Output contains: Dataset upon request

Mass mortality of native and alien freshwater mussels due to extremely low water levels of the river Waal (Photo F. Collas).

Innovative components

Freshwater mussels are important for river and lakes ecosystems. Native species contribute for example to keep the rivers clean as mussels are fed with the algae and bacteria floating in the water. While native mussels are threatened or extinct, alien species are becoming invasive and their increasing number change the functioning of the river ecosystem. In the light of more extreme environmental conditions that are often affected by global change (i.e., water temperature, water depth, oxygen availability, and flow velocity), we systematically reviewed 493 scientific publications to identify the sensitivity of freshwater mussels in European such as the river Waal in The Netherlands. This literature review resulted in a database with 8405 data entries that included field-based occurrence and laboratory-derived minimum and maximum values for the presence or absence of freshwater mussels.

Source: Collas et al. (2018).

Findings and Implications to practice

Based on this dataset, we derived sensitivity distributions (SSDs) of European freshwater mussel species for water temperature, flow velocity, water depth, dissolved oxygen levels, and air exposure. Interestingly, the temperature sensitivity of alien mussels (% of potentially absent or not occurring fraction) was found to be higher compared to native mussels. Thereby, we identified the most vulnerable species to global change.

For example, on the right photo, maximum habitat temperature (blue line) of alien species (red line) and native species (blue line) of freshwater bivalve species. The 2.5% and 97.5% confidence intervals (dotted lines). Symbols represent a species family. Therefore, we concluded that European mussels that are already vulnerable and endangered are most sensitive to global change. Therefore, conservation efforts should focus on the species with a high sensitivity to global change. The maximum and minimum sensitivity levels are useful to improve the design of river restoration measures throughout the European continent.

Related Content


Collas, F. P. L., Buijse, A. D., Hendriks, A. J., van der Velde, G., & Leuven, R. S. E. W. (2018). Sensitivity of native and alien freshwater bivalve species in Europe to climate-related environmental factors. Ecosphere, 9(5), e02184.

Related outputs

Longitudinal training dams decrease effects of navigation and increase the density of juvenile fish species in the littoral zones of the river Rhine.

The construction of this novel intervention in a highly navigated river like the Waal quickly allowed for ecological restoration while continuing with commercial navigation.

01/04/2018 by Frank Collas et al.

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Contains: Dataset upon request

Last modified: 12/05/2019