Conserving Forests is Working for Endangered Dwarf Wedge Mussel
Photo of Dwarf wedge mussel. USFWS photo.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office continues to coordinate with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust to conserve 1,300 acres of wetland, riparian, and interior forest habitat in the McIntosh Run watershed in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
The McIntosh Run watershed is currently one of the most ecologically intact watersheds remaining in Maryland, containing large blocks of contiguous forest, Because of its relatively intact forested landscape, McIntosh Run watershed contains one of three remaining viable populations of the Federally-endangered dwarf wedge mussel (Alasmidonta heterodon) in Maryland.
There has been a significant increase in the construction of new homes, strip malls, and offices in the watershed. These developments are frequently associated with impermeable surfaces which result in run-off containing gasoline, oil, anti-freeze, nutrients, and pathogens into streams, reducing water quality.
The dwarf wedge mussel requires high water quality and has declined through the years due to the destruction of forests, resulting in poor stream conditions. Forests filter runoff, protecting streams from the impacts of development and agriculture. Protection of forests adjacent to and upstream of mussel populations is crucial to the recovery of this mussel species.
Interior forest habitat in the McIntosh Run watershed.
Photo by Dan Murphy, USFWS
The Chesapeake Bay Field Office Coastal and Endangered Species Programs worked together with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to obtain Endangered Species Recovery funds to purchase an 81-acre forested property adjacent to a ½-mile stream reach containing part of the McIntosh Run mussel population. That property is now owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office, and the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust.
The conservation of this property will also help migratory songbirds by providing foraging and forested nesting areas. Other aquatic species, like migratory fish, will benefit from higher water quality in McIntosh Run through protecting the streamside forests.
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