On Wednesday, September 10, the Pale Lilliput, one the rarest species of freshwater mussels in the U.S., will be stocked for the first time in the Duck River in central Tennessee. Once abundant in the Duck River and throughout the Tennessee River system downstream of Chattanooga, Tenn., this federally endangered species is currently limited to 4 miles of the Paint Rock River located in Jackson County, Ala.

More than 800 mussels, which were cultured at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center (AABC), an Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) facility near Marion, Ala., will be reintroduced to the river by AABC staff and volunteers from various state/federal agencies and private conservation groups. Representatives from ADCNR, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy are expected to be in attendance.

In addition to the reintroduction of the Pale Lilliput to the Duck River, the TWRA has donated 500 federally endangered Duck River Dartersnapper mussels to the AABC for release in Bear Creek in Colbert County, Ala. The last confirmed sighting of the species in Bear Creek was more than 100 years ago. Along with the Dartersnapper, endangered Alabama Lampmussels will also be stocked. The Bear Creek release will take place on September 11.

The Pale Lilliput release will be one of the most significant endangered species reintroductions in the U.S. this year due to the rarity of the animal and the number of working partnerships that have made recovery efforts possible. In the event of adverse weather and/or water conditions, the releases will be rescheduled to the earliest available dates. For more information about the releases, contact the AABC at (334) 683-5000.

“When the Pale Lilliput was formally listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1976, dam construction, pollution and poor land-use practices had chased it from all drainages except the Paint Rock River in Alabama and the Duck River in central Tennessee,” said Dr. Paul Johnson, AABC Director. “By 1990, the species had disappeared from the Duck River, leaving the small section of the Paint Rock River drainage as the sole remaining location for the species.”

In recent decades, water quality and habitat improvement projects conducted by city, state and federal agencies along with private conservation groups have made these reintroduction efforts possible. No additional regulatory burdens will be imposed on the Duck River and Bear Creek as federally listed species already occur in both locations. Biologists with various state and federal agencies and other conservation groups in Alabama and Tennessee will continue to monitor the Duck River and Bear Creek reintroduction efforts over the next year.

As filter feeders, mussels are critical to the health of freshwater ecosystems. A single small mussel can filter more than 12 gallons of water per day. The southeast U.S. hosts the greatest diversity of freshwater mussels on the planet. Alabama and Tennessee have several mussel species that are now listed by the USFWS as endangered or threatened due to habitat fragmentation and/or degradation. Tennessee is home to 50 federally listed mussels and Alabama, 67.

For more information about the Pale Lilliput, visit www.outdooralabama.com/pale-lilliput.

Partners in the reintroduction efforts include the Alabama and Tennessee chapters of The Nature Conservancy, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, TVA, USFWS, TWRA, and various other conservation organizations and city, state and federal agencies.

The AABC was created by the ADCNR to address the overwhelming conservation need of Alabama’s freshwater species. As one of the largest state-run nongame recovery programs of its kind in the U.S., the AABC’s mission is to promote the conservation and restoration of rare freshwater species in Alabama waters and, in turn, restore cleaner water to the state’s waterways.

 

Pale Lilliput photo by the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center.