The Malacologist | The Malacological Society of London The Malacological Society of London The Malacologist

Volume 51


Freshwater Mussel Ecology- A Multifactor Approach to Distribution and Abundance


David L. Strayer

Hardcover | 26.95 | ISBN 13: 978-0-520-25526-5

Freshwater Mussel Ecology: A Multifactor Approach to Distribution and Abundance by David L. Strayer is a detailed and engaging exploration of the ecology of freshwater mussels, with an aim of developing integrative models with enough predictive power to be of value to scientists and resource stewards alike. How are the presence/abundance of unionoidean species and the diversity of communities influenced by biotic and abiotic interactions? And, how can we use that understanding to inform future research efforts? Freshwater mussels are among the most endangered invertebrates in the world, especially in southeastern North America, and Freshwater Mussel Ecology is a call-to-arms for freshwater malacologists to think seriously about how the changing world is likely to exacerbate the situation.

As Strayer emphasizes, the challenge to develop multifactor models is made more difficult by the current inadequacy of the available data. There simply has not been enough quantitative work to relate freshwater mussel distribution and abundance to various ecological variables. In fact, the most rigorous analyses on the subject (many of them by Strayer himself) have underscored the current limits of our predictive power. Few of the parameters that we think should be strongly correlated with freshwater mussel health and diversity turn out to be useful in that regard. Past approaches have been largely reductionist, examining how much one or a very few factors are capable of explaining mussel distributions. What have been neglected are the complex interactions among these various environmental parameters. Providing the motivation and means to think about unionoidean distribution and abundance in this way is the primary contribution of Strayer's book.

Freshwater Mussel Ecology is divided into three sections. The first sets up the analogy that developing an integrated, multifactor model of unionoidean distribution and abundance is similar to the task of Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein: to take all the parts that we may understand in isolation and assemble them into a monster that can walk. This is an apt metaphor for the process that Strayer describes.

The second section discusses what we know of the individual parts and how they might be sewn together. The bulk of the book is taken up with these chapters describing how dispersal, habitat, larval host fish, available food and enemies can individually be applied to explain freshwater mussel ecological patterns. These chapters provide excellent reviews in the context of modern ecological theory and will be of tremendous value to both professional and student malacologists. These general reviews of freshwater mussel ecology will be of greatest value to those interested in the temperate faunas of North America and Europe. Examples are drawn almost exclusively from those regions and taxa, with less applicability to the tropical lineages of the southern hemisphere and the Indotropics.

The final section elaborates some examples of how the potential monsters might look - if we, in fact, actually had the data to set them in motion. If what the freshwater malacological community wants is a detailed model that can explain mussel distributions, then a new approach to data collection and analysis is necessary, and Freshwater Mussel Ecology provides a coherent framework around which the discussion can begin.

If you are expecting a function or algorithm into which you can plug your environmental data and get a probability of freshwater mussel presence at a particular locality, or maps with isobars depicting most-likely future changes in mussel distributions, then you will probably be disappointed for some time to come. But, Freshwater Mussel Ecology: A Multifactor Approach to Distribution and Abundance by David Strayer provides a timely and interesting analysis of how freshwater malacologists (or anyone that wants to understand multifactor studies using freshwater mussels as exemplar taxa) could move toward such a coherent synthesis of the processes involved. The book is a must-read for anyone working or studying the ecology of this diverse and endangered assemblage of mollusks.

Daniel L. Graf

Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia USA