Salinity tolerance of a rare and endangered unionid mussel, Popenaias popeii (Texas Hornshell) and its implications for conservation and water management
Authors: Michael A. Hart, Tom D. Miller, Charles R. Randklev
Unionid mussels are considered sensitive to salinity and there is growing concern in arid and semi-arid regions that declining flows coupled with anthropogenic impacts are amplifying natural salinity levels. In this study, we tested the effects of varying salinity concentrations (3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0 and 10.0 ppt NaCl) on survival of adult Popenaias popeii, (Texas Hornshell). This species occurs in the Rio Grande basin of Texas and northern Mexico, an arid to semi-arid stream plagued by salinization, and was recently listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. We performed 2, 4, and 10-day toxicity tests on individuals from two disjunct populations: Laredo, TX, and the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande near Big Bend National Park. We found no significant differences in LC50 estimates between populations at 96-hrs or 10-days but significant differences in TUD50s at 5 ppt between populations, which indicates that tolerance does not vary but sensitivity may between these populations. Overlaying LC50 estimates at 10-days for both populations on plots of salinity (ppt) measured over time, we show parts of the Rio Grande periodically approach or exceed 4.0 ppt, indicating these reaches are becoming unsuitable for P. popeii and populations within them at risk.