Freshwater mussels are a vital component of healthy aquatic ecosystems, playing important roles in nutrient cycling, water quality maintenance, and stream-bed habitat structure. They also represent a critical prey base for other organisms. Populations of these invertebrates have declined precipitously across North America. Most species are very sensitive to disturbance due to their sedentary lifestyle and dependence upon good water quality. Habitat alteration and loss, illegal and over-harvesting, and competition from introduced species are some of the factors in their decline. Nationwide, more species of freshwater mussels are listed as threatened and endangered than any other group of animals.

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