State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2010ME227B
Title: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) as an indicator of habitat quality in tributaries
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 5/01/2010
End Date: 9/01/2010
Congressional District:
Focus Categories: Conservation, Ecology, Management and Planning
Keywords: Bioindicators, Conservation, Ecosystems, Fish Ecology, Fisheries,
Principal Investigator: Peckenham, John
Federal Funds: $ 4,972
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 2,436
Abstract: Atlantic salmon are a charismatic sentinel species with strict habitat requirements, whose presence and success indicate excellent stream quality. However, habitat destruction and water quality degradation have contributed to the extirpation of salmon from over 80% of their historical U.S. range, and now, the remaining wild Atlantic salmon stocks in Maine are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Machias River, located in downeast Maine, harbors one of the few remaining wild populations of anadromous Atlantic salmon in the U.S. This study focuses on Atlantic salmon habitat in 1st and 2nd order streams of the Machias River watershed. Over the past century, the Machias River watershed has experienced much alteration due to anthropogenic disturbance. These activities, mainly the construction of roads for timber harvest and log driving, have severely disrupted the structure and function of the river and its tributaries. The extensive network of logging roads required the construction of dozens of culverts on many of these headwaters streams. Currently, these poorly designed and malfunctioning culverts impede the movement of juvenile Atlantic salmon into tributaries that historically provided nursery and rearing habitat. These productive habitats are essential to the growth and survival of juvenile Atlantic salmon, as they provide thermal refuge, protection from predators, and abundant food supply. However, current management of Atlantic salmon in the Machias River involves stocking fry in larger tributaries because many of these smaller tributaries are blocked by culverts and thus would be inaccessible to returning adults. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to determine the growth and survival of stocked Atlantic salmon fry in these headwaters streams, better understand those habitat characteristics most significant to juvenile salmon production, and assess the benefits of culvert removal in the context of Atlantic salmon restoration.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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