Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017SC105B

Endemic Bartram

Institute: South Carolina
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,641 Total Non-Federal Funds: $49,252

Principal Investigators: Brandon Peoples, Yoichiro Kanno

Abstract: Garnering public support for watershed restoration projects aimed to improve water quality and aquatic life can be difficult. However, relating key sentinel species to watershed- scale processes can be an effective tool for conveying the importance of restoration projects to the public. Bartrams Bass (Micropterus sp. cf cataractae) is endemic to the Savannah River basin; it occurs nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, this unique fish is threatened by invasive species and landscape alteration. Because it is (a) sensitive to water quality and habitat degradation, and (b) a popular gamefish, Bartrams Bass is an ideal sentinel species for monitoring water quality and instream habitat in the Savannah River basin and garnering public support for restoration efforts. This project will leverage support from (a) currently-funded research on Bartrams Bass in the PIs labs, and (b) a collaborative agreement between South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the PIs labs. The proposed project will: (1) Quantify variation in growth rates (a key component of individual fitness) of Bartrams Bass throughout the Savannah River basin; (2) identify the watershed-scale factors that control growth rates of Bartrams Bass, and (3) identify key locations and implementation strategies for stream restoration, using the South Carolina Stream Assessment (SCSA) decision support tool and information from objectives (1) and (2). To accomplish these objectives, we will first collect adult Bartrams Bass from at least 30 sites representing the range of water quality and instream habitat conditions found in the Savannah River basin. In the lab, we will use otoliths (a bone in the fishs head that accumulates growth rings similar to trees) to estimate growth rates. Using remotely sensed data, we will then use mixed effects modeling to identify the most important watershed-scale predictors of Bartrams Bass growth rates. Based on the mixed model results, we will use the SCSA tool to model potential restoration alternative scenarios that maximize key locations and strategies for improving growth of Bartrams Bass. This project is an important step toward implementing conservation strategies that will benefit Bartrams Bass, as well as overall water quality and aquatic ecosystems as a whole. The proposed research takes an innovative approach of using detailed life history parameters of key species to define priorities for land restoration and conservation. Moreover, it will fill in critical knowledge gaps in the life history and ecology of a species that lives nowhere else in the world but in the Savannah River basin