Listen: Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying And Nobody Knows Why
"We take certain parts of the natural world for granted right trees cleaning the air worms enriching soil bees pollinating crops but increasingly eating late. These natural systems that we rely on our failing. They're under attack from Climate Change Human Development and disease impairs Nathan. Rod Has the story of one critical all species. That's dying and the team racing to find out. Why slip into your waiters and slosh out into the knee? Deep waters of the clinch rip and South West Virginia agent the clinched lows at the feet of the age rounded southern Appalachian Mountain slowly descending towards Tennessee. It's water is sharp cold engine engine clear which is good because what we're looking for lives on the rock crusted river bottom on long and it's just a matter of like how long does a until we we see. Something died very recently. That is Jordan Richard A biologist with the US fish and Wildlife Service and. It doesn't take him long to find what he does is not one to see that one leads the peasants. Shell is just laying there even say it's not buried too. That's what should be buried in. But he pulls a palm sized object from the water. Not that's dead. Richard is holding a freshwater Mussel Less edible diversion of its saltwater. Cousin that lines river bottoms across the country cleaning water and providing habitat to other species. It show is Gold Brown and glistening but the milky white muscle inside is turning a gray brown at its edges the color of decay. Biologists Rose Apple log brings over another muscle in similar condition. That smell alley. Yeah it's real real bad. So that's been dead maybe couple days tier two they find another dead muscle and another by the time I stopped at five and then more after that it standing mid river a bit later Richard Lifts his gaze from the water and looks upstream seemingly nothing in particular expecting. It's not a good way which I'm pretty used to. I'm pretty used to like coming out of your thing. I'm going to see just getting completely the bomb with the muscles but the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates mates that hundreds of thousands of freshwater mussels have perished since the day off was I noticed in two thousand sixteen. Biologists and fishermen were finding finding fresh dead muscles week after week after week and not just here unexplained freshwater Mussel die-offs have since been documented in Oregon Washington Jason Wisconsin and Michigan. There's even been one in Spain and says a major concern for the future and for the future health of freshwater. Emily Blevins is a conservation. Biologist with Desert See Society for Invertebrate Conservation a nonprofit that focuses on some of the world's more let's say under loved critters and people belong to get quite as excited about but lack backbones unfortunately but many of those species are critically important to the natural world take freshwater mussels their filter feeders that remove algae sediment and heavy metals from passing water. There's research that's shown they can remove pharmaceuticals from the water and pesticides songs and flame retardants and remove E. coli from the water so think of them as nature's equivalent to Britta filter cleaning the water. We drink while also so providing suitable habitat to countless other species. The problem is freshwater. Mussels are also one of the most imperilled species on the planet dozens of muscle types have already gone extinct in north. America wiped out by Water Pollution Human Development and habitat loss. The current die off is just one more threat widespread and fast moving. And it's 'cause Richard The biologist says that's the challenge it could be a million things but because of limited time hi and resources we've had pick and choose what we think is the most likely things and start running them down and it takes years worth of effort a team at the University of Wisconsin. That's working with Richard and blevins has detected a virus and a bacteria that are statistically associated with the die off but they're not willing to call either the culprit it just yet climate change stressing ecosystems and threatening species around the world but it does not seem to be the driver here so with the clock. Ticking and cause is unknown. The team in Virginia has something of a contingency plan. A hatchery. Nursery more or less per freshwater mussels is one of our live live in screamed so pheasant. Shell is in here. That's the one that really dial Tim Lane is a muscle recovery coordinator with the Virginia Department of game and Inland Fisheries. He's walking through. What's essentially along shit mind with? PVC pipes trump's and dozens of shallow black buckets half filled with sand. These buckets are home to a WHO's who of endangered mussels species in here. Come away come. Show not to be confused with the endangered Cumberland monkey-face keep pace nearby over here. We have golden shell over here fifty. That's more than probably a wild that we haven't put out there. This facility ability is a last line of defense for some freshwater mussels species lane another. Biologists are reproducing them here and then keeping them safe until they're mature enough to to be brought back into the wild when the recent diop's started on the clinch they brought a bunch of pheasants shells here from an unaffected part of the river. The muscles could be used as a baseline a healthy sample to us as they search for the Diop's 'cause but in a worst case. Scenario with diaw continues unabated. They could also be used as stock going to stand idly by washing away. We're GONNA do the best we can. To help them produce progeny. So the species isn't going through inside the hatcheries attorney's office away from the troughs pumps lane and Richard say they know muscles aren't as photogenic as a rhinoceros or as easy to communicate as the plight apply to the polar bear but Richard says freshwater mussels and many other lesser known species are like the foundation of a house that everything lives in is not awesome to care about the foundation of your house. You could renovate your kitchen but if that foundation is crumbling and you ignore it by the time you notice a problem because you fall through the floor. It's too late to do anything about it. And everything else falls through to eighth unwrought N._P._R.. News adding in"