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Freshwater mussel response to drying in the Lower Helena Pipehead Dam & mussel translocation strategy for conservation management

Klunzinger, M.W., Beatty, S.J. and Lymbery, A.J. (2011) Freshwater mussel response to drying in the Lower Helena Pipehead Dam & mussel translocation strategy for conservation management. Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research (Murdoch University), report to Swan River Trust.

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    Abstract

    The Helena River is a major tributary of the Swan River. Carter’s Freshwater Mussel, Westralunio carteri, is currently listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species and as a ‘Priority 4’ species by the Department of Environment and Conserveration (WA). The species is the only freshwater mussel native to the south-west and may play an integral role in maintaining water clarity and quality through its filter-feeding habit. Indeed, in other parts of the world, freshwater mussels have been shown to benefit water supplies through the remediation of the effects of eutrophication. The species has declined in recent years primarily from increased salinisation of waterways throughout its historic range. Maintaining existing populations is becoming increasingly important. Recent research is beginning to show that the survival of the species is becoming increasingly challenged by not only salinity, but also drought, chemical and nutrient pollution, habitat loss, and factors that threaten host fishes (which are required as obligate hosts for the parasitic larval stage [‘glochidia’]).

    Historically, the species was found throughout the freshwaters of the Swan-Avon catchment, based on museum records and early reports (pre-1970s). Current information on the species distribution within the Helena system is sparse, but recent reports by Wetland Research and Management, Swan River Trust and Murdoch University have found the mussel existing above and, although to a far lesser extent, below the dam.

    This study aimed to collate previously existing data on the freshwater mussels in the Helena River, update species information within the Lower Helena Pipehead Dam and translocate part of an existing population in the dam which would be exposed to drying and increased predation during a drop in water volume following maintenance works.

    Publication Type: Report
    Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
    Publisher: Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research (Murdoch University), report to Swan River Trust
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/7741
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