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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Ecological marginality and recruitment loss in the globally endangered freshwater pearl mussel

Tamario, Carl; Tibblin, Petter; Degerman, Erik;


Aim Ecological marginality is the existence of species/populations in the margins of their ecological niche, where conditions are harsher, and the risk of extinction is more pronounced. In threatened long-lived species, the disparity between distribution and population demography may provide understanding of how environmental heterogeneity shapes ecological marginality, potential extinction patterns and range shifts. We set out to evaluate this by combining a species distribution model (SDM) with population-specific demography data. Location Sweden, 450,000 km(2). Major Taxa Studied Freshwater pearl mussel (FPM, Margaritifera margaritifera) and two salmonid fish species. Methods A SDM for the mussel was constructed with MaxEnt using salmonid host fish (Salmo trutta plus S. salar) density, extreme low and high temperatures, precipitation, altitude, and clay content as explanatory variables. The output was used to test the ecological marginality hypothesis by evaluating whether lowly predicted populations had higher loss of recruitment. Logistic regression was used to explicitly test the factors involved in recruitment loss. Results Host fish density contributed the most (50.3%) to the mussel distribution, followed by lowest temperature the coldest month (34.3%) and altitude (10.3%), while the remaining explanatory variables contributed minimally (<3.3%). Populations with lower SDM scores lacked recruitment to a significantly higher degree. Populations inhabiting areas at low altitude, with lower densities of host fish, and warmer winter temperatures have lost recruitment to a higher degree. Main Conclusions We found support for the ecological marginality hypothesis. The patterns indicate that FPM habitat niche may shift northwards over time. Salmonid host fish density seems to be a driving factor for both historical distribution and recent demographic performance. Finally, we emphasize the value of combining SDMs with independent data on population demography as it both lends rigidity to model validation and understanding of how ecological marginality affects species distribution and viability.


demography; edge; extinction vortex; population; range shifts; species distribution

Published in

Journal of Biogeography

2022, volume: 49, number: 10, pages: 1793-1804
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Tibblin, Petter
Linnaeus University
Tamario, Carl
Linnaeus University
Degerman, Erik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources

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