A green floater mussel (Lasmigona subviridis). Ryan Hagerty/USFWS
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The green floater, a freshwater mussel native to the waters of Southern Appalachia, is now formally considered at risk of extinction due to the loss and fragmentation of its aquatic habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the green floater, historically found in 10 eastern U.S. states, is likely to become endangered due to existing and emerging threats. The service is proposing to list the mussel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The green floater is still found in its native range in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It is considered locally extinct in Alabama and Georgia.
While the species has strongholds in places, green floaters are rare in nearly 80 percent of the watersheds where they naturally occur. More than 75 percent of the nation’s native freshwater mussel species are endangered or threatened, considered to be of special conservation concern, or presumed extinct, according to USWFS.
Development, energy production and agriculture have affected the quality of many streams within the species’ range, and drought, intense storms and increasing temperatures associated with climate change are projected to further degrade aquatic habitats.
Freshwater mussels are important indicators of healthy streams and rivers. Green floaters are unique among mussels because they can incubate their own larvae and do not require a host fish to reproduce.
The U.S. is home to the greatest diversity of freshwater mussels — the green floater is one of about 300 species native to our waters — but they have experienced drastic declines over the last century.
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