The Lake St. Clair delta (∼100 km2) provides an important refuge for native freshwater mussels (Unionidae) wherein 22 of the ∼35 historical species co-occur with invasive dreissenids. A total of 1875 live unionids representing 22 species were found during snorkeling surveys of 32 shallow (∼1 m) sites throughout the delta. Richness and density of unionids and zebra mussel infestation rates varied among sites from 3 to 13 unionid species, 0.02 to 0.12 unionids/m2, and <1 to 35 zebra mussels/unionid, respectively. Zebra mussel infestation of unionids in the delta appears to be mitigated by dominant offshore currents, which limit densities of zebra mussel veligers in nearshore compared to offshore waters (13,600 vs. 28,000/m3, respectively). Glycogen concentrations in the tissues of a common and widespread species in the delta (Lampsilis siliquoidea) suggest that zebra mussels may be adversely affecting physiological condition of unionids in a portion of the Lake St. Clair delta. Physiological condition and community structure of unionids within the delta may also be influenced by differences in food quantity and quality resulting from the uneven distribution of water flowing from the St. Clair River. The delta likely supports the largest living unionid community in the lower Great Lakes and includes several species that have been listed as Endangered or Threatened in Canada and/or the state of Michigan, making it an important refuge for the conservation of native unionids.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1