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Freshwater mussel conservation: A global horizon scan of emerging threats and opportunities

Aldridge, David C.; Ollard, Isobel S.; Bespalaya, Yulia V.; Bolotov, Ivan N.; Douda, Karel; Geist, Juergen; Haag, Wendell R.; Klunzinger, Michael W.; Lopes‐Lima, Manuel; Mlambo, Musa C.; Riccardi, Nicoletta; Sousa, Ronaldo; Strayer, David L.; Torres, Santiago H.; Vaughn, Caryn C.; Zając, Tadeusz; Zieritz, Alexandra

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David C. Aldridge

Isobel S. Ollard

Yulia V. Bespalaya

Ivan N. Bolotov

Karel Douda

Juergen Geist

Wendell R. Haag

Michael W. Klunzinger

Manuel Lopes‐Lima

Musa C. Mlambo

Nicoletta Riccardi

Ronaldo Sousa

David L. Strayer

Santiago H. Torres

Caryn C. Vaughn

Tadeusz Zając


We identified 14 emerging and poorly understood threats and opportunities for addressing the global conservation of freshwater mussels over the next decade. A panel of 17 researchers and stakeholders from six continents submitted a total of 56 topics that were ranked and prioritized using a consensus‐building Delphi technique. Our 14 priority topics fell into five broad themes (autecology, population dynamics, global stressors, global diversity, and ecosystem services) and included understanding diets throughout mussel life history; identifying the drivers of population declines; defining metrics for quantifying mussel health; assessing the role of predators, parasites, and disease; informed guidance on the risks and opportunities for captive breeding and translocations; the loss of mussel–fish co‐evolutionary relationships; assessing the effects of increasing surface water changes; understanding the effects of sand and aggregate mining; understanding the effects of drug pollution and other emerging contaminants such as nanomaterials; appreciating the threats and opportunities arising from river restoration; conserving understudied hotspots by building local capacity through the principles of decolonization; identifying appropriate taxonomic units for conservation; improved quantification of the ecosystem services provided by mussels; and understanding how many mussels are enough to provide these services. Solutions for addressing the topics ranged from ecological studies to technological advances and socio‐political engagement. Prioritization of our topics can help to drive a proactive approach to the conservation of this declining group which provides a multitude of important ecosystem services.


Aldridge, D. C., Ollard, I. S., Bespalaya, Y. V., Bolotov, I. N., Douda, K., Geist, J., …Zieritz, A. (2023). Freshwater mussel conservation: A global horizon scan of emerging threats and opportunities. Global Change Biology, 29(3), 575-589.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Oct 15, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 29, 2022
Publication Date 2023-02
Deposit Date Nov 29, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 2, 2022
Journal Global Change Biology
Print ISSN 1354-1013
Electronic ISSN 1365-2486
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 575-589
Keywords conservation, diversity, ecosystem services, freshwater mussel, horizon scan, mussel health, threats, unionid
Public URL
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