Propagation of Native Freshwater Mussels for the Continuation of Provided Ecosystem Services
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Benefits humans derive from the environment, known as ecosystem services, come in a variety of forms, provided by a variety of organisms. Native freshwater mussels, of the order Unionida, provide many ecosystem services, from nutrient cycling to acting as habitat builders, to the freshwater aquatic systems across the Great Lakes region and the broader United States. Invasion of native habitats by exotic freshwater bivalves, combined with sensitivity to changes in water parameters and water chemistry brought on by pollution and impoundment, the Unionidae family is recognized as one of the most imperiled faunal groups globally, with many species extinct and on the verge of extinction. While conservation of native freshwater mussels has risen in importance over the years, these efforts are complicated by their unusual life cycle, which includes a parasitic larval stage. With the advancement of propagation techniques combined with an increase in known hosts for the parasitic stage, propagation is viable for more native freshwater mussel species. Improvements to in vivo and in vitro propagation of native freshwater mussels provide a method of ensuring the survival of these species, thereby ensuring the survival of the ecosystem services they provide.