Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
1996 Report of Region 3 - North-Central
New Recovery plans and other important publications:
The proceedings of the 1994 symposium hosted by the Tennessee Aquarium, "Aquatic fauna in peril--the southeast perspective," is soon to be published. Also, Chris Coco Associate Curator of Fishes, recently circulated a draft recovery plan for Lake Sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, in Clinch River. This is a cooperative effort with several state and federal agencies and universities. These include t Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Georgia, and Kentucky State University.
TWRA will soon publish a revision of "Tennessee's Rare Vertebrates," that was originally published in 1983. Peg Shute, Dave Etnier, Charlie Saylor and Rick Bivens updating the fish section.
Recovery plans that are available since our last S regional report include: final pygmy madtom, Noturus stanauli, plan; technical draft for palezone shiner, Notropis albizonatus; and technical draft for bluemask dart Etheostoma (Doration) sp. All of these are available from the Asheville, NC U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) office.
Status surveys and other interesting finds:
Although there is currently a moratorium on listing of Endangered and Threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, several status surveys have been completed, or are ongoing. These projects are funded by the Asheville, NC and Jackson, MS Field Offices of the FWS, as secured by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Alabama Department of Game & Fish, and are described below. Pat Ceas and Larry Page (INHS) produced a final report on the status of three Tennessee River drainage endemics: the crown darter, Etheostoma corona; lollipop darter, E. neopterum; and egg-mimic darter, E. pseudovulatum. They did not make specific recommendations about possible federal listing of any of these species. However, they concluded that because all three species inhabit relatively small streams that are easily impacted, and because the ranges are small, they are all in danger of population extirpations or extinction. They reported only 13 breeding sites for E. neopterum and commented that if the populations in the Shoal Creek system were to become extirpated, the species is likely to become extinct. Etheostoma corona was considered relatively common throughout its small range (Lauderdale Co., AL and Wayne Co., TN), and in no immediate danger of extinction. New localities were documented for E. pseudovulatum in two new stream systems within the Duck River system. However, despite these new populations, several populations were considered tenuous, and Ceas and Page considered the conservation status of E. pseudovulatum to be intermediate between E. neopterum and E. corona.
Lesa Madison (Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Tennessee Technological University) published the results of her status survey for the Barrens darter, E. forbesi. She reported the species from eight streams in the upper Caney Fork River system, and described its continued existence as threatened by various activities, mostly agricultural, on the Barrens Plateau.
Chris Skelton (UTK student) is currently investigating the taxonomic and distributional status of the undescribed Phoxinus, recently known as "laurel dace". The "laurel dace' is currently known from three Tennessee River tributaries on the Walden Ridge portion of the Cumberland Plateau, in Bledsoe County, TN.
Pat Rakes is continuing his status survey of Barrens topminnow, Fundulus julisia. In 1995, F. julisia was initially observed at eight localities. Rakes also reported two new distribution records for the species: a North Prong Barren Fork tributary (Miller Branch, Warren Co., TN); and a Collins River tributary (Charles Creek, Warren Co., TN). On subsequent visits to two of these eight localities in 1995, no F. julisia were observed, however. Rakes reported the abundance of all previously known populations was greatly reduced over that estimated in the early 1980s, that all populations are vulnerable to extirpation, and that the survival of the species is tenuous. During 1996, this survey will continue; in addition to FWS funding, the project has been supplemented through a contract secured from Arnold Engineering and Development Center (AEDC) by the Tennessee Field Office of The Nature Conservancy. As a result of this funding, captive populations on AEDC property, additional to those currently maintained by Rakes at Conservation Fisheries Inc. (CFI) facilities, may be arranged.
During 1995, J. R. Shute and Pat Rakes (CFI) continued work begun by Brooks Burr (SIUC) to determine the status of the undescribed "chucky madtom". The "chucky madtom" is currently known only from Little Chucky Creek, Nolichucky River system of the Tennessee River drainage (Greene, Co., TN). Preliminary genetic analyses by Brooks Burr and Jim Grady indicate that the "chucky madtom" is a distinct species. However, its taxonomic relationship to topotypic Noturus elegans and other N. elegans -like specimens from elsewhere in the Ohio River basin remains unclear; this is unlikely to be resolved soon, because of the inability to secure additional specimens from most of these areas. The Dunn Creek (Sevier Co., TN) locality in the Pigeon River system that may have historically produced specimens of this taxon was surveyed by CFI. Taylor listed these earlier specimens as N. elegans. Several other streams in the Nolichucky River system were also surveyed. During the 1995 surveys, no "chucky madtoms" were observed at any localities, including Little Chucky Creek. Burr and Grady are continuing the taxonomic work, and CFI will continue field surveys in 1996.
Rick Mayden, Bernie Kuhajda, and students at UAIC are concluding a three-year status survey of Tuscumbia darter, Etheostoma tuscumbia. In addition to estimating abundance at the various spring and spring-run populations and surveying for additional populations, student Jessica Boyce is comparing behaviors of the various populations. E.B. Jones (UAIC student is also currently analyzing and comparing the genetic composition of the various populations.
Kuhajda and Mayden are continuing a status survey for the Alabama cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni. Their objectives are to determine methodology to estimate population size and trends and to document the range of the species within the cave system. As reported previously, they continue to observe what is believed to be a single specimen of the southern cavefish, Typhlichthyes subterraneous at the same locality in Key Cave. They reported that numbers of S. poulsoni observed 1992-1995 were comparable to those observed during earlier FWS surveys, indicating a relatively stable population size. During the initial survey to discover additional populations of S. poulsoni, caves that contained T. subterraneous were not considered likely to contain populations of S. poulsoni, and were not thoroughly surveyed. They plan to more thoroughly survey other nearby caves for S. poulsoni.
A survey, funded by the National Park Service (NPS), for duskytail darters, Etheostoma percnurum, in the Big South Fork system of the Cumberland River has substantially extended the range of this species. Previously, specimens only existed from the Big South Fork at the mouth of Station Camp Creek (Scott Co., TN). Individuals from CFI, SIUC, Kentucky Division of Game & Fish and NPS surveyed 14 localities over nearly 22 river km by seine and snorkel. As a result, E. percnurum is currently known to occur in appropriate habitat between the mouth of Station Camp Creek as far downstream as the mouth of Bear Creek (McCreary Co., KY). This is the first record of the species in Kentucky. At most sites where they occurred, they were moderately abundant, and abundances indices (calculated from fish observed per unit effort) compare with those observed in the Citico Creek (Monroe, Co., TN) population. No additional specimens of the unusual E. (Catonotus) sp. previously reported from the Big South Fork were observed during this survey. This survey is continuing in 1996.
We report another interesting finding as result of 1995 CFI Big South Fork snorkel surveys. Ashy darters, Etheostoma cinereum, were abundant at several localities in the New River, tributary of the Big South Fork. Etheostoma cinereum is known historically and currently from several localities along the main channel of the Big South Fork. Although the localities surveyed by CFI were previously sampled (Comiskey and Etnier, O'Bara, etc.), E. cinereum was not documented there. At the time of the earlier surveys, aquatic habitats in the New River were described as significantly degraded as a result of coal mining. Considering these earlier assessments, our qualitative observations indicate that benthic habitats in the New River have considerably improved, perhaps as a result of mine reclamation. Brian Evans, a UTK student is planning to resurvey the fishes of this system. This will take place in conjunction with John T. (Bo) Baxter's survey of the fishes of the upper Cumberland System.
Rex Strange and Brooks Burr (SIUC) produced a final report on genetic variability and metapopulation dynamics for the blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis. They described some variation between metapopulations and made is recommendations about possible future reintroductions for conserving the species. A major consideration reported by Strange and Burr was the importance of dispersal corridors to the long-term maintenance of the species.
The SATURN Corporation has provided funding for a life history survey of the redband darter, Etheostoma luteovinctum, listed by TWRA as "Deemed in Need of Management." Redband darters occur in two streams on the SATURN property, and its numbers have been monitored by SATURN since they broke ground for their factory in 1986. This study is being conducted by Chris Paxton, UTK student. under the supervision of Dave Etnier.
Champion International's efforts to improve water quality in the Pigeon River are apparently showing some success. Greg Seegert, Ecological Analysts, collected Etheostoma gutselli at several localities in the Pigeon in North Carolina and Tennessee below their notorious mill in Canto, NC. According to Greg, they were syntopic with E. blennioides newmani. We have not seen the specimens yet.
Etnier's regional faunas class revisited the Bear Creek site in west Tennessee that represents the only TN locality for Notropis dorsalis. It continues to be present there--along with numerous y-o-y Ctenopharyngodon and Hypophthalmichthys.
Negative data from 1995 field surveys: no pygmy madtoms, Noturus stanauli, were observed or collected in the Clinch or Duck rivers; no slender chubs, Erimystax cahni, were collected, despite the efforts of Etnier's ichthyology classes, TVA River Action Team (RAT) crews, and others.
Captive propagation and reintroduction:
Boulder darters, E. wapiti, were successfully spawned and reared in CFI aquaria, using techniques developed using bloodfin darters, E. sanguifluum, as surrogates. A single pair spawned three times in captivity, producing 8-10 viable eggs and five hardy offspring; a pair of adults is currently being maintained at CFI. In addition to the adults currently at CFI we will attempt to collect a few more adults in 1996, and hope to produce more offspring. These may eventually be used to bolster the Elk River populations, or to reintroduce the species into Shoal Creek (Lawrence Co., TN and Lauderdale Co., AL). Upgraded waste-water treatment facilities have improved water quality in Shoal Creek. As part of an "ecosystem management" project, Jim Layzer (NBS Cooperative Fisheries Unit at Tennessee Technological University) has a student surveying habitat stability and the fish community currently present in Shoal Creek. -In addition, Layzer and other students are investigating the stability of substrate in the stream, and have reintroduced some common mussel species. If the results of these surveys are favorable, the reintroduction of E. wapiti, Cyprinella monacha, and several species of endangered mussels may be attempted.
As previously reported, smoky and yellowfin madtoms, Noturus baileyi and N. flavipinnis, and duskytail darters, E. percnurum, (Citico Creek parental stock) were again successfully captively propagated. To date, a cumulative total of nearly 1000 N. bailey, 500 N. flavipinnis, and 250 E. percnurum have been reintroduced into Abrams Creek in the Great S Mountains National Park, (Blount County, TN). More than 2500 spotfin chubs, Cyprinella monacha, have also been reintroduced into Abrams Creek.
Individuals of all four reintroduced species (N. baileyi, N. flavipinnis, E. percnurum, and C. monacha) were observed in Abrams Creek during the 1995 field season. Reproduction was documented for E. percnurum and N. flavipinnis and inferred for N. baileyi.
Two-year-old captively spawned blackside dace, Phoxinus cumerlandensis, spawned in CFI aquaria. Offspring reared from this effort will be maintained as a captive population; no reintroductions are planned for this species at present. Although the No Business Branch locality (Campbell Co., TN) where P. cumberlandensis had been translocated in 1993 has been surveyed several times since 1993, no P. cumerlandensis have been seen there. Ron Cicerello and Ellis Laudermilk (Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission) and Rick Bivens (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission) have recently resurveyed historical and new localities for P. cumberlandensis. The status of the species is apparently stable at present, and several new populations have been discovered. As described above, Rex Strange and Brooks Burr (SIUC) have made recommendations for conserving these populations.
The Tennessee Aquarium has become more involved in cooperative efforts for conserving regional biodiversity. In cooperation with CFI, they may become involved in captive propagation and reintroduction projects by rearing C. monacha produced by CFI to stocking size. The number of individuals that can be produced in the current CFI facility is limited. TWRA permits allowing the Aquarium to hold this state and federally listed species are currently pending.
Local and regional watershed activities:
The USGS has designated the upper Tennessee River (from southwestern Virginia downstream to about the Chattanooga, TN area) as one of their National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQUA) areas. As a result, Steve Ahlstedt is in the process of producing a historical retrospective of the aquatic fauna of the streams of the area. They will also establish long-ten-n sampling sites and conduct biological and water quality samples in this area.
The TVA RATs continue to collect biological, water quality, and other data on the streams within their area of interest. They are also working with organizations and individuals to protect sensitive resources. Much of their work involves working with landowners to improve agricultural practices that have resulted in degraded aquatic habitats. This coordination greatly improves our abilities to conserve and restore our rare aquatic resources. For example, the activities of the USGS, the Clinch/Powell RAT, the Tennessee Field office of The Nature Conservancy, and the recently formed Upper Tennessee River Protection Planning Committee has resulted in increased awareness of the local public to the importance of the resources of their area.
Other multi-agency cooperative projects in our region include the activities of the Upper Tennessee River Protection Planning Committee, Little Tennessee Watershed Association, and the Paint Rock River Initiative. The Upper Tennessee River Protection Planning Committee is composed of state and federal agency personnel and other organizations interested in conserving important aquatic habitats in the upper Tennessee River drainage in Virginia and Tennessee. Regular meetings keep all participants informed and involved in activities occurring in the area of concern. The Little Tennessee River Watershed Association is also supported by federal, state, and local agencies, but the membership is also largely composed of an enthusiastic grass-roots organization led by Bill McLarney. The Paint Rock River Initiative has a broader mission to "conserve and improve the quality of life and natural resources of the Paint Rock River through voluntary participation. " This relatively new group is currently in the process of planning and prioritizing and acquiring funding for their activities.
The Tennessee office of The Nature Conservancy has established a local office in the Clinch River. Their work involves helping farmers to restore riparian vegetation, and fencing cattle or other livestock from streams; target areas for this work were chosen based on biological resources. In addition to the Clinch/Powell activities, the Tennessee and Georgia field offices of The Nature Conservancy are currently cooperating on a similar project in the upper Conasauga River watershed in Tennessee and Georgia.
Peggy W. Shute and David A. Etnier