Residual effects of lead and zinc mining on freshwater mussels in the Spring River Basin (Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, USA).Sci Total Environ. 2007 Oct 01; 384(1-3):467-96.ST
Concentrations of selected trace elements in surface water and fluvial sediment were investigated as possible factors limiting the distribution and abundance of freshwater mussels in the Spring River Basin, a 6600 km(2) watershed overlapping a former Pb and Zn mining and ore processing district in the central USA. Mussel taxa richness surveys and supporting physical habitat assessments were performed in 23 stream reaches dispersed throughout the basin and above and below former mining sites. Quantitative mussel density surveys were performed in the Spring River at one upstream reference location and one downstream location. Concentrations of 16 trace elements in the soft tissues of mussels and Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) were determined at most survey sites. Comparable analyses were performed on surface water samples collected during base flow and peak flow synoptic surveys and sediment samples collected during base flow periods. Sites on the Spring River immediately upstream of heavily mined areas supported at least 21-25 species of mussels, whereas sites near the lower terminus of the river yielded evidence of 6-8 extant species. Between the upper and lower quantitative survey sites, mean mussel and clam densities declined by 89% and 97%, respectively. Tributary reaches below heavily mined areas lacked evident bivalve communities and contained concentrations of Cd, Pb, and Zn that continually or sporadically exceeded hardness-dependent water quality criteria and consensus-based sediment quality guidelines (probable effect concentrations). In less contaminated stream reaches supporting bivalves, concentrations of Cd, Pb, and Zn in mussels and clams were correlated spatially with the levels occurring in surficial sediment (0.50 < or = tau < or = 0.64, p < or = 0.03). In non-headwater perennial stream reaches, sediment Cd, Pb, and Zn levels were related inversely to mussel taxa richness (-0.80 < or = tau < or = -0.64, p < or = 0.004). Metal contaminant burdens in mussels and clams fluctuated measurably in association with variable stream flow conditions and accompanying changes in surface water and sediment chemistry. Concentrations of Cd, Pb, and Zn in mussels approximately paralleled the levels measured in composite clam samples (0.74 < or = tau < or = 0.79, p<0.001), implying C. fluminea could serve as a possible surrogate for native mussels in future metal bioaccumulation studies. Overall, streams draining heavily mined areas exhibited depauperate (or fully extirpated) mussel assemblages and correspondingly elevated concentrations of Cd, Pb, and Zn in water, sediment, and bivalve tissue. Other evaluated environmental chemistry parameters, and physical habitat conditions assessed at the stream reach scale, demonstrated little general relationship to the degraded status of these assemblages. We conclude that pollution attributable to former mining operations continues to adversely influence environmental quality and impede the recovery of mussel communities in a large portion of the Spring River Basin.