The Granite State is home to some 10 species of native freshwater mussels, 70% of which are listed as species of greatest conservation need.
This spring, New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program will begin measuring the health of existing populations of freshwater mussels, according to a news release.
Once the ice melts, biologists will begin underwater surveys throughout the state and will rely on the financial support of donors to carry out the research.
“I am excited to focus additional conservation efforts on our imperiled freshwater mussels and the lakes, ponds, and rivers where they are found,” said Michael Marchand, who supervises the state’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.
“Freshwater mussels are often overlooked but are vital when it comes to maintaining healthy water bodies on which people and wildlife both rely,” Marchand said.
The brook floater, dwarf wedge mussel and eastern pond mussel have declined in population to levels warranting their listing as threatened or endangered species in New Hampshire.
According to the news release, freshwater mussels help maintain healthy waters, acting as natural filters that keep rivers, ponds and lakes clean.
There are 60 rivers, lakes, and reservoirs in New Hampshire that support wildlife and serve as public water supplies for residents and visitors, Marchand said. Mussels are sensitive to environmental changes and therefore play a critical role in indicating the health of freshwater systems.
Survey results will inform decisions on landscape protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat.
Conservation actions taken to benefit freshwater mussels will also benefit people and other species such as bald eagles, wood turtles, American brook lampreys and Northern leopard frogs.
Private donations will provide the necessary matching funds for a federal grant acquired by the Fish and Game Department, the news release said.
To make a tax-deductible contribution, go to www.nhfishandgame.com/Donations.aspx.
Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program works to protect over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians as well as thousands of insects and other invertebrates.