Freshwater mussels in Mediterranean-climate regions: species richness, conservation status, threats, and conservation actions needed

Justin Aaron Benson, Barbara Ann Cook, Paul Graeme Close, Alan John Lymbery

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


1. The five global Mediterranean‐climate regions are experiencing alarming rates of freshwater biodiversity loss. Although freshwater mussels are recognized as important functional components in aquatic ecosystems, and are among the most threatened faunal groups globally, there has been no synthesis of the plight of this group within these regions.

2. Data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List were reviewed to compare the conservation status, threats, and conservation actions needed for freshwater mussel species occurring in Mediterranean‐climate regions (med‐mussels) with those of other freshwater mussel species globally. The first comprehensive catalogue of med‐mussel species was compiled using existing taxonomic literature.

3. There are 41 med‐mussel species, 30 of which occur in the Mediterranean basin. Many regions have just a single species, and regions where multiple species occur generally only have between one and four species per river basin. Med‐mussel species are almost twice as likely to be ‘Imperilled’, are affected by 2.4 times more threats, and require 3.5 times more conservation actions than non‐med mussels. In many cases, the exact threats have not been identified.

4. In combination with low species richness, this level of imperilment means that Mediterranean‐climate regions are at risk of losing the benefits that mussels provide to broader ecosystem functioning. The conservation of med‐mussels can be improved by increasing our knowledge of species distributions, including the identification of cryptic species and significant management units, through population genetic work. In addition, recognizing the potential of ‘novel’ habitats and refuge areas could augment the management of this important functional group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-728
Number of pages21
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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