Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


Degree Name



Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research


Freshwater mussels, Mussel restoration, Freshwater ecosystems


C. Febria


T.E. Pitcher



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The conservation and restoration of freshwater ecosystems are complex. Knowledge from community ecology, conservation biology, and restoration ecology was integrated to interrogate the role of species interactions involving freshwater mussels (order Unionida) as keystone species. Freshwater mussels require host fish and provide ecosystem functions for other species throughout aquatic and riparian ecosystems, yet conservation efforts remain focused on focal mussel species or host fish associations. My thesis explored species co-occurrences within mussel and benthic macroinvertebrate community assemblages, and systematically reviewed the published literature to assess the breadth and reported effectiveness of mussel restoration. Community analyses confirmed species co-occurrences across environmental conditions and with federally listed species at risk. Additionally, benthic macroinvertebrate diversity and the presence of specific taxa were found to be significant indicators for mussel species at risk. Mussel restoration studies revealed geographic bias in the few restoration measures reported globally, and low reporting of restoration failures. Knowledge gaps identified in the synthesis highlighted the need to strengthen connections between mussel ecology and restoration practice. Collectively, this thesis presents support for the importance of beneficial species interactions for mussels, the potential of benthic macroinvertebrates to inform mussel conservation, and evidence for inclusion of species interactions in conservation and restoration.