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Researchers are searching for and identifying mussels in streams that flow through National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) member lands in Louisiana, with special attention to two rare mussel species – the Louisiana pigtoe and the Texas heelsplitter. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of the mussels’ habitat needs, how sustainable forest management – including implementing state-approved best management practices – is supporting those needs, and what can be done to better conserve both species and even reintroduce new populations to working forests.

Species Focus

Mussels are important in aquatic ecosystems. They act as “ecosystem engineers,” cleaning the water and creating diverse habitat for many other aquatic species.

Louisiana pigtoes are rare, medium-sized freshwater mussels with thick, inflated shells. Their smooth shells range from reddish-brown to brown to black, sometimes with greenish rays; can be triangular, square or rectangular. The Louisiana pigtoe is currently proposed for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Texas heelsplitters are rare freshwater mussels with thin, smooth, elliptical shells. In fact, they’re named for their sharp shells, which can be as much as 7 inches long. Their shells range from tan to dark brown or black. The species is currently proposed for listing as endangered under the ESA.

Preliminary Fieldwork

In the first two years of WCI collaboration (2021 and 2022), researchers identified streams on NAFO member company lands with appropriate conditions for mussels then used DNA testing to verify species’ identities. Multiple rare species have been found, including the Louisiana pigtoe and Texas heelsplitter.

Conservation Success Starts with Keeping Forests Intact

We all have a hand in ensuring conservation of wildlife. When we purchase wood and forest products, we support the sustainable cycle of growing, harvesting and replanting that keeps our forests as forests. Thousands of species call working forests home, and many species thrive in actively managed working forests.