Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015AL170B

EVALUTATION OF THERMAL AND DISSOLVED OXYGEN STRESS TO FRESHWATER MUSSELS IN A SAFE HABOR / CRITICAL HABITAT REACH OF AN ALABAMA STREAM.

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $40,000

Principal Investigators: James Stoeckel

Abstract: The southeastern United States is a worldwide epicenter of biodiversity for a range of aquatic taxa including fish, crayfish, and mussels. Thermal and dissolved oxygen stressors resulting from altered flow regimes below dams, and projected climate change, can have profound impacts on aquatic organisms since most physiological processes related to growth and reproduction are strongly dependent on temperature and dissolved oxygen levels. These two stressors are closely intertwined because the ability of water to absorb and hold oxygen is temperature dependent. There is a great need for information regarding effects of altered temperature and dissolved oxygen regimes on the diverse aquatic taxa of the southeastern United States. The current USEPA Nationally Recommended Water Quality Criteria (http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/criteria/current/index.cfm), for DO thresholds are based on research conducted prior to 1986. Research and analytical techniques have greatly advanced since that period (i.e. Winkler titrations or early DO probes vs fiber optic respirometry systems; graph paper and hand-drawn regressions vs analytical software packages). Furthermore, recommendations for vertebrates are based on only a small number of fish species, while those for invertebrates are based primarily on aquatic insects and don’t include threatened groups such as freshwater mussels and crayfish. There is strong interest from state and federal agencies, as well as private companies, to understand thermal/dissolved oxygen tolerances of fish, crayfish, and mussels due to dam relicensing requirements, minimum flow regulations, and planning for future climate change. These agencies need updated studies that provide information on the impacts of altered temperature and dissolved oxygen regimes on aquatic animal health. We have received seed funding from the USFWS to begin updating our knowledge of thermal/DO tolerances of non- game fish species, with potential for renewal in subsequent years. Alabama Power and the Alabama Department of Natural resources have also expressed interest. We are meeting with Alabama Power in December to discuss this further. Thus the potential for future funding from State, Federal, and private agencies is high.