State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2009IN242B
Title: Fish Responses to Sediment Associated with Increasing Biofuel-related Crop Production in the Wabash River Watershed
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: 4
Focus Categories: Agriculture, Conservation, Ecology
Keywords: Biofuels, Stream fish ecology, Suspended sediments, Respirometry, Shovelnose sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus platorychnus, Northern hogsucker, Hypentelium nigricans, Mottled sculpin, Cottus bairdi, Raindow darter, Etheostoma caruleum
Principal Investigator: Goforth, Reuben R
Federal Funds: $ 15,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 30,532
Abstract: Intensive agricultural practices have long been critical for providing the food resources required by large and growing national and world human populations. Additional agricultural demands for raw materials beyond food products are rapidly emerging, especially with regard to biofuels. Growing demands for biofuel-related raw materials and animal products may be intensifying the environmental effects of agricultural land uses despite a recent history of improved agricultural practices (e.g., crop rotations, conservation tillage, crop residues, etc.) that have the potential to improve and protect stream ecological integrity. Among the potential environmental changes expected to result from shifts in agricultural practices to favor biofuel raw materials is increased sedimentation of streams. Sediment levels above those that naturally occur in streams are known to negatively affect many stream fish species, although threshold responses of stream fish to suspended sediment levels are unknown. This proposal seeks funding to support faculty-mentored undergraduate student experiments designed to identify thresholds for four common fish species in the Wabash River watershed: mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi), rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum), northern hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans), and shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus). Students will use wild-caught fish placed in custom respirometers to monitor oxygen consumption as a proxy for stress under reference, existing, and multiple predicted sediment levels resulting from agricultural land use change. Students will also use specially-designed microcosms to evaluate changes in blood chemistry and gill microstructure as a result of chronic exposure to elevated suspended sediment levels. The results will contribute to efforts aimed at informing agency personnel, Purdue Extension personnel, and land owners of management and regulatory needs to maximize both biofuel raw material yield while at the same time protecting/enhancing tributary and mainstem resources of the Wabash River watershed.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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