N.C. mussel listed as threatened
A mussel found in Western North Carolina will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act following a decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The longsolid mussel is a medium-sized mussel up to 5 inches long that can live up to 50 years. It prefers a mixture of sand, gravel and cobble stream bottoms and is currently found in ten states: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
There are currently 60 known populations of the mussel, with 48 of those in a very limited area with no sign of young mussels growing into adults. Such populations have very low resiliency. This is down from a historical high of 160 populations. The mussel is no longer found in Georgia and Illinois.
In the same decision, the USFWS decided to list the hickorynut freshwater mussel as threatened too. That species is found in nine eastern and midwestern states, but not North Carolina.
The USFWS is also designating critical habitat and tailoring ESA protections to protect these imperiled species from going extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range in rivers and streams in the eastern United States.
The biggest threats to longsolid and round hickorynut mussels are habitat degradation and loss, genetic isolation and threats from invasive and non-native species. The USFWS worked with researchers from a variety of organizations to assess the species’ status and compiled those findings in a peer-reviewed species status assessment. The longsolid and round hickorynut mussels are found largely where federally protected mussels already occur, so any increased regulatory burden is expected to be minimal. No critical habitat for the longsolid mussel occurs in North Carolina.
The complete listing proposal is available under Docket Number FWS–R4–ES–2020–0010 at regulations.gov.