The study says 60 out of 68 U.S. species, or 88 percent of fish species found exclusively in large-river ecosystems like the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers, are of state, federal or international conservation concern. The report is in the April issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
The fate of the blue catfish and more than 60 other species of large-river specialist fishes depends on conservation of suitable habitat and connectivity between the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Credit: Brenda Pracheil
On the other hand, says lead author Brenda Pracheil, a postdoctoral researcher in the UW's Center for Limnology, the study offers some good news, too.
Traditionally, the conservation emphasis has been on restoring original habitat. This task proves impossible for ecosystems like the main trunk of the Mississippi River — the nation's shipping, power production, and flood control backbone. While the locks, dams and levees that make the Mississippi a mighty economic force have destroyed fish habitat by blocking off migration pathways and changing annual flood cycles species need to spawn, removing them is not a realistic conservation option.
But, says Pracheil, we're underestimating the importance of tributaries. Her study found that, for large-river specialist fish, it's not all or nothing. Some rivers are just big enough to be a haven.
For any river in the Mississippi Basin with a flow rate of less than 166 cubic meters of water per second, virtually no large-river specialist fishes are present. But in any river that even slightly exceeds that rate, 80 percent or more of the large-river species call it home.
That means Mississippi tributaries about the size of the Wisconsin River and larger are providing crucial habitat for large-river fishes. When coupled with current efforts in the large rivers themselves, these rivers may present important opportunities for saving species.
"Talk to any large-river fish biologist, and they will tell you how important tributaries are to big river fish," says Pracheil. "But, until now, we've not really understood which rivers are most important. Our study tackles that and shows which tributaries in the Mississippi River Basin show the most promise for conservation of large-river fishes."
Current policies governing large river restoration projects are funded largely through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which requires that funds be spent on mainstems — or the big rivers themselves. Pracheil's study suggests spending some of that money on tributary restoration projects might do more conservation good for fish, while also letting agencies get more bang for their habitat restoration buck.
"Tributaries may be one of our last chances to preserve large-river fish habitat," Pracheil says. "Even though the dam building era is all but over in this country, it's just starting on rivers like the Mekong and Amazon — places that are hotspots for freshwater fish diversity. While tributaries cannot offer a one-to-one replacement of main river habitats, our work suggests that [they] provide important refuges for large-river fishes and that both main rivers and their tributaries should be considered in conservation plans."
Adam Hinterhuer, 608-890-2187, email@example.com
Brenda Pracheil | EurekAlert!
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.
Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
19.09.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.09.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.09.2017 | Materials Sciences