, Volume 743, Issue 1, pp 127–137 | Cite as

Evaluating the use of side-scan sonar for detecting freshwater mussel beds in turbid river environments

  • Jarrod Powers
  • Shannon K. Brewer
  • James M. Long
  • Thomas Campbell
Primary Research Paper


Side-scan sonar is a valuable tool for mapping habitat features in many aquatic systems suggesting it may also be useful for locating sedentary biota. The objective of this study was to determine if side-scan sonar could be used to identify freshwater mussel (unionid) beds and the required environmental conditions. We used side-scan sonar to develop a series of mussel-bed reference images by placing mussel shells within homogenous areas of fine and coarse substrates. We then used side-scan sonar to map a 32-km river reach during spring and summer. Using our mussel-bed reference images, several river locations were identified where mussel beds appeared to exist in the scanned images and we chose a subset of sites (n = 17) for field validation. The validation confirmed that ~60% of the sites had mussel beds and ~80% had some mussels or shells present. Water depth was significantly related to our ability to predict mussel-bed locations: predictive ability was greatest at depths of 1–2 m, but decreased in water >2-m deep. We determined side-scan sonar is an effective tool for preliminary assessments of mussel presence during times when they are located at or above the substrate surface and in relatively fine substrates excluding fine silt.


Sonar images Mussel habitat Distribution Detection 



This research is a contribution of the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma State University, and Wildlife Management Institute cooperating). Project funding was provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (F11AF00027). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank Mark Jensen, Bruce Burkehead, and Daniel Beatie for valuable field assistance and Mark Gregory for technical assistance. Dan Shoup and Timothy Grabowski provided valuable comments on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA)  2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jarrod Powers
    • 1
  • Shannon K. Brewer
    • 2
  • James M. Long
    • 2
  • Thomas Campbell
    • 1
  1. 1.Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitOklahoma State UniversityOKUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitOklahoma State UniversityOKUSA

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