District to Raise Freshwater Mussels for Kane and McHenry County Conservation Efforts
Mussels to be Released in Regional Waterways
(May 2, 2018) — The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Urban Stream Research Center
— the only facility of its kind in Illinois — is helping boost populations of freshwater mussels in waterways in Kane and McHenry counties.
“We are thrilled our Urban Stream Research Center is leading efforts to increase native freshwater mussel populations in waterways in the region to improve water quality in support of our conservation mission,” said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore.
The District will receive $100,000 from Nicor Gas as part of an intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County for mussel propagation, monitoring, training and research collaboration.
The agreement will allow Nicor to replace 8 miles of natural gas pipeline, a project that will affect slippershell mussels in Kane County’s Tyler Creek. The District’s Urban Stream Research Center will use the money to increase slippershell and other native mussels in both Kane and DuPage counties as well as conduct additional research, perform post-release monitoring and provide aquatic training to area ecologists.
The District is also helping the McHenry County Conservation District boost populations of creek heelsplitter and fluted-shell freshwater mussels in Nippersink Creek at Glacial Park in McHenry County. The District will propagate the mussels at the Urban Stream Research Center and release sub-adults into Nippersink Creek. These two species are no longer present in DuPage County, but this collaboration will likely result in their future reintroduction into DuPage rivers and streams.
In 2017 the District propagated, reared and released 24,377 freshwater mussels across 18 miles of the West Branch DuPage River and two tributaries to boost natural populations. Freshwater mussels play vital, irreplaceable roles in the overall health of aquatic habitats.
Mussels act as “filter feeders” by taking in large amounts of water and then filtering out bacteria, algae and suspended particles before passing the clean water back into the river. Just one large adult mussel can filter more than 6 gallons of water in one day.
“Freshwater mussels are what we call a ‘keystone species,’” said Jessi DeMartini, the District’s aquatic research center coordinator. “They may be small, but they have enormous beneficial effects on the lives of other organisms, including humans. They are underwater biological treatment plants and in a waterway near you!”
Freshwater mussels make up the most imperiled group of wildlife in North America. Over a century of man-made changes to rivers have damaged mussels’ preferred habitats. Ammonia and other contaminants are life-threatening to juveniles, and competition from invasive species like the zebra mussel has further reduced native populations. As a result, of the 300 known species of native freshwater mussels in the U.S., 70 percent are listed as endangered, threatened or species of special concern at federal and state levels. Illinois was once home to 80 species, but now more than half of those species are threatened, endangered, extirpated or extinct.
The Urban Stream Research Center is located in Blackwell Forest Preserve
in Warrenville where Springbrook Creek enters the West Branch DuPage River. The building opened in 2012 and was funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is the result of a partnership between DuPage Stormwater Management and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
The center’s main purpose is support conservation efforts by augmenting common wild populations of native freshwater mussels once abundant and diverse in the Des Plaines River basin. The Forest reserve District also uses the center to incubate state-endangered Blanding’s turtles and rear federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae.
The Forest Preserve District manages more than 1,100 acres of aquatic habitats, including lakes, streams and rivers. The center also serves as a field research station, partnering with local conservation groups, universities and other institutions on collaborative applied research in aquatic conservation that seeks solutions to problems facing urban rivers and streams.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 145 miles of trails, five education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter
and Instagram pages.