COLUMBUS, OH -- Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) biologists report finding a variety of mussels in the Big Darby Creek State and National Scenic River during monitoring programs conducted last summer and fall.
Biologists with ODNR's Division of Natural Areas & Preserves examined three Big Darby sites, including one downstream of Hellbranch Run in western Franklin County. Overall, the division documented more than 23 species of mussels.
"Because freshwater mussels spend most of their lives, up to 20-30 years, embedded in streams and impoundments, they are excellent indicators of water and habitat quality," said ODNR Division of Natural Areas & Preserves Chief Stu Lewis. "Finding a variety of healthy mussels in Big Darby Creek, downstream of Hellbranch Run, indicates that the Hellbranch is providing a measure of protection to the Big Darby Scenic River."
ODNR's Division of Wildlife also conducted a mussel survey last year, through its endangered species tax checkoff grant program, focusing on the lower 20 miles of Big Darby Creek. They recorded a total of 27 mussel species living in the creek.
"Rooftops, roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks that replace natural forests, meadows and farmland lead to sediment being carried by runoff into the Big Darby watershed," said Bob Gable, ODNR scenic rivers administrator. "Such runoff into river tributaries, such as the Hellbranch Run, can cause negative changes to the stream's habitat, water quality and biodiversity. Also, increased storm water runoff increases water levels, the speed of water flow, erosion, flooding and property damage."
Currently, ODNR biologists are working with officials from Franklin County, the City of Columbus, surrounding suburbs, local soil and water conservation districts and private landowners to help develop and implement policies that will help protect the health of Big Darby Creek State and National Scenic River.
Efforts that can help protect this unique habitat include: improved stormwater retention; filter strips around construction projects and the establishment of forested buffer zones along Big Darby Creek and its tributaries.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife also mailed more than 500 copies of the newly published educational book, A Guide To Ohio Streams, to landowners along Big and Little Darby Creeks.
ODNR biologists will continue their sampling efforts and habitat restoration efforts into 2001 to further monitor the health of Big Darby Creek watershed. Eighty-two miles of the Big Darby Creek and its major tributary were designated as state scenic rivers in 1984 and as a national scenic river in 1994. The Darby Creek watershed covers an area of 556 square miles and is home to more than 80 species of fish and more than 33 species of freshwater mollusks.
ODNR's Division of Natural Areas & Preserves manages a system of 123 state natural areas and nature preserves in Ohio, as well as a system of 20 state scenic river segments.