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Holocene Extinctions$
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Samuel T. Turvey

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199535095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199535095.001.0001

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Past and future patterns of freshwater mussel extinctions in North America during the Holocene

Past and future patterns of freshwater mussel extinctions in North America during the Holocene

Chapter:
(p.107) CHAPTER 5 Past and future patterns of freshwater mussel extinctions in North America during the Holocene
Source:
Holocene Extinctions
Author(s):

Wendell R. Haag

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199535095.003.0005

Past human impacts on the riverine ecosystems of North America remain poorly understood. This continent is home to the world's most diverse freshwater mussel fauna, but mussels are particularly vulnerable to human impacts because they are long-lived sedentary filter feeders with complex life histories. A large body of historical and archaeological sources provide an extraordinarily comprehensive record of mussel distribution and in some cases abundance throughout the Holocene that exists for few organisms in general and is unprecedented for invertebrates. Despite high harvest pressure and the potential effects of prehistoric human land use practices on aquatic habitats, no extinctions of mussel species have been documented in North America until the 20th century. However, freshwater mussels have experienced one of the highest rates of extinction of any group of organisms during the past 100 years, primarily due to dam construction and the indirect effects of habitat fragmentation.

Keywords:   assemblage composition, commercial harvest, dam construction, extinction debt, habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, shell midden

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