State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2007SC49B
Title: A Statewide Biomarker Approach to Investigate Pollution Effects on Sunfish (Lepomis sp.) in Wadeable Streams of South Carolina
Project Tyye: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/29/2008
Congressional District: Third
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Toxic Substances, Surface Water
Keywords: Conservation, Environmental Risk Assessment, Biomarkers, Fish Toxicology, Point sources, Non-point sources
Principal Investigators: van den Hurk, Peter; Klaine, Stephen; Scott, Marc C.
Federal Funds: $ 30,952
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 68,267
Abstract: In 2006, the State of South Carolina, Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was awarded a State Wildlife Grant to "Conduct an assessment of wadeable streams to gather appropriate data that will allow SCDNR to design effective and efficient management strategies to protect, conserve, and restore the aquatic resources of the State." These landscape-level assessments are intended to provide us with the ability to understand causal pathways of threats to aquatic resources, communicate aquatic resource status and trends to interested stakeholders, and to recommend strategies for resource conservation at the planning stages of land management and development projects. Watersheds of appropriate size (i.e., those that drain to wadeable streams) are sampling units stratified by unique combinations of ecoregion and major river basin in the state, called "ecobasins". Over a five year period (2006-2010) the following parameters will be characterized within the 400 watersheds: point sources as measured by NPDES permits, nonpoint sources as measured by appropriate land use/land cover classes in entire basin and within riparian buffer, hydrological disruption as measured by impounded area. In each stream, selected measures of channel geomorphology and flow characteristics, water quality, and vertebrate and invertebrate community structure will be quantified. This effort will result in one of the most comprehensive statewide assessments available.

By collaborating with SCDNR, we have a unique opportunity to develop and apply measures of fish health that will augment this extensive effort. Biomarkers provide a biochemical measure of contaminant exposure and effects in fish. The opportunistic sampling of fish in all 400 watersheds over a period of five years, coupled with the measurement of a series of biomarkers, will provide insight into reasons for changes in population and community metrics measured within each stream. Indicators for fish health that are measured are hepatosomatic index, gonadosomatoc index and splenosomatic index. Specific biomarkers indicating exposure to pollutants include EROD activity, bile fluorescence, and induction of metallothionein and vitellogenin. Together with the physico-chemical water and sediment quality data that are collected at the same sampling sites (as proposed in a parallel research proposal), a comprehensive overview will be achieved of the population status, health and risks of resident fish in all watersheds in South Carolina.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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