Hydraulic modeling of mussel habitat at a bridge-replacement site, Allegheny River, Pennsylvania, USA

Ecological Modelling
By: , and 



The Allegheny River in Pennsylvania supports a large and diverse freshwater-mussel community, including two federally listed endangered species, Pleurobema clava(Clubshell) and Epioblasma torulosa rangiana (Northern Riffleshell). It is recognized that river hydraulics and morphology play important roles in mussel distribution. To assess the hydraulic influences of bridge replacement on mussel habitat, metrics such as depth, velocity, and their derivatives (shear stress, Froude number) were collected or computed.

The objectives of the project were to evaluate mussel and hydraulic data at a reference site and to compare those findings to a bridge-replacement site. The findings were used to support a statistical analysis, which establishes correlations between mussel count and hydraulics, and a numerical model to forecast habitat based on the statistics.

ArcGIS was selected to manage the data and generate a grid to compute area statistics for 3319, 4.9-m × 4.9-m cells (cell) for total mussel count, depth, velocity, shear stress, and Froude number. The Wilcoxon Rank Sum test indicated no statistical significance between the total mussel count and the hydraulic variables; however, trellis graphs were used to account for the spatial variability in the data set. For the flow conditions measured, the total mussel count per cell is greatest at sections where (1) velocities range from 0.061 to 0.21 m/s, (2) shear stresses range from 0.48 to 3.8 dyne/cm2, and (3) Froude numbers range from 0.006 to 0.04.

Based on the statistical targets established, the hydraulic model results suggest that an additional 2428 m2 or a 30-percent increase in suitable mussel habitat could be generated at the replacement-bridge site when compared to the baseline condition associated with the existing bridge at that same location. The study did not address the influences of substrate, acid mine drainage, sediment loads from tributaries, and surface-water/ground-water exchange on mussel habitat. Future studies could include methods for quantifying (1) channel–substrate composition and distribution using tools such as hydroacoustic echosounders specifically designed and calibrated to identify bed composition and mussel populations, (2) surface-water and ground-water interactions, and (3) a high-streamflow event.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydraulic modeling of mussel habitat at a bridge-replacement site, Allegheny River, Pennsylvania, USA
Series title Ecological Modelling
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.10.019
Volume 221
Issue 3
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 540
Last page 554
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
City East Brady, Foxburg
Other Geospatial Allegheny River
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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