Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
1997 Report of Region 4 - South-Central
Bud Freeman at the University of Georgia's Institute of Ecology in Athens reports that TVA has received a permit to construct a new powerline in northwest Georgia that will cross the Conasauga River five times. Recent TVA activities in the system have already destroyed a small stream that was the only known spawning site for Etheostoma trisella in Georgia. A truck spilled its pesticide load into a tributary of the middle Etowah River system, which killed fish for several miles, including the federally Threatened Etheostoma scotti; there was no prosecution because the action was deemed not willful. On the positive side, Bud has co-authored a Tennessee Aquarium publication on a Stakeholder's guide to the Conasauga River in Tennessee and Georgia, which facilitates education and conservation efforts. Likewise, the community-based Conasauga River Alliance, which is composed of stakeholders in the area, will soon be working with a full time resource specialist hired by The Nature Conservancy. Bud has documented spawning behavior of Percina antesella in artificial streams and is conducting a life history study on Percina aurolineata in the Coosawattee River. Additional studies on the Coosawattee and Etowah river systems include spatial distributional databases of fish collections and current land-use practices. David Walters, a MS student, is finishing his thesis on the distribution of fishes in the Conasauga River system, which includes incorporating all collection information into a GIS based spatial database and assessing temporal shifts in the faunal community, identifying sensitive species, and recommending strategies for management. Another MS student, Kevin Barnes, is studying sedimentation impacts on fish assemblages in the upper Blue-Ridge portion of the Etowah River system. Bud also reports that Georgia fisheries biologists are considering the reintroduction of Acipenser fulvescens into the upper Coosa River system. In the upper Tallapoosa River, a second and third specimen of Moxostoma carinatum were collected by Mary Freeman and the Auburn Coop. unit (and others), respectively. Lastly, Judy Johnson, working with the Auburn Coop. unit, discovered the federally listed Lampsilis altilis in the Tallapoosa River above Harris Reservoir; the Georgia portion of the system remains unsampled.
Frank Parauka at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Panama City, Florida, along with the North Carolina Coop. unit, has been studying the movement and spawning habitat of Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi in the Choctawhatchee River system in Alabama and Florida. Fifteen adult sturgeon were radio-tagged and tracked. The results indicated that migratory patterns differed according to sex and reproductive condition, with ripe females entering the river in spring and migrating upriver more than 125 miles. Gulf sturgeon appear to be utilizing hardbottom areas 81 miles upriver and beyond for spawning, including the Pea River. Additional habitat characterization on a one mile stretch of river was initiated to develop a classification scheme for predicting the importance of these habitats to the life history of the sturgeon. Future field work will attempt to establish habitat characteristics of spawning sites, and to continue studying relative differences in migratory behavior related to sex and reproductive condition.
Carl Couret at the Service's office in Daphne, Alabama has been involved in the formation of the Tri-State Water Management Plan. Legislators in the three states are preparing to vote on the plan which allocates an "as yet to be determined" amount of water to various states. Once passed at the state level, the plan must receive the go ahead from the U.S. Congress. Unlike previous drafts, the current plan has the wording of "conserving biodiversity" and "maintaining water quality." Carl is concerned that if water allocation to Alabama is reduced, flow requirements necessary to comply with water quality laws may lead to many headwaters being impounded to store water for low flow periods.
Malcolm Pierson of the Alabama Power Company in Birmingham has completed an extensive five year fish study in the Coosa River below Jordan Dam (Elmore County). Preliminary results indicate that the 2000 cfs minimum continuous flow has improved habitat for most fish species. Reproductive success has been documented for Cycleptus elongatus and Moxostoma carinatum. Crystallaria asprella have been documented from the main channel of the Coosa River and juvenile mussels of several species have been collected in recent years.
Randy Haddock of the Cahaba River Society reports that the executive director of the Society, Beth Stewart, will serve as co-chair on the Jefferson County Stormwater Management Committee to develop recommendations for the county on how to comply with implementation of a new water pollution control program mandated by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. ADEM, with the help of EPA, is adopting a basin-wide management approach to water pollution in Alabama, and the first effort will be the Cahaba River system. Randy also reported that a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will allow the Society to develop a new educational program that will be leading numerous teacher and student field trips in the Black Warrior and Cahaba river systems. Lastly, Randy indicated that three of the six gastropods species recently proposed for federal listing in Alabama are presently found in the Cahaba River system.
Bob Stiles at Samford University continues to study the biology of Cottus pygmaeus in Coldwater Spring, Calhoun County, Alabama. He is using transects and bottom sampling to assess the population, which appears healthy. He is just starting to collect data on prey items available and how it relates to stomach contents.
Scott Mettee of the Geological Survey of Alabama in Tuscaloosa reports that the Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin became available in December 1996. This 832-page publication (650+ pages in color) was completed as a cooperative effort of the Survey and Alabama Game and Fish Division with funding provided by the USFWS. Introductory chapters include Physical Setting, Fish Distribution, Anatomy, and a Key to 29 families of freshwater and marine fishes known to inhabit freshwater. Most of the book is devoted to two-page species accounts; one page provides a color distribution map generated using GIS technology, and the other page includes information on the distributions, physical characteristics, adult size, habitat and biology, and protected status of 300+ species. Color photos of individual species are included in the species accounts as well as in the Anatomy chapter and the Key to Families. Illustrated taxonomic keys to species occur within each family discussion. Two colorized tables contain checklists to species within Alabama's 16 river systems and 67 counties. Scott also reports that Survey staff documented the movement of specimens of Cycleptus elongatus from 68 to 134 miles downstream and over Claiborne Lock and Dam following spawning in the Alabama River in 1995 and 1996. Another study found healthy populations of the federally Threatened Noturus munitus in the lower Cahaba River. A biological water quality project will be completed in the lower Cahaba River this year with the results published by the Survey. Studies in the Tennessee River drainage will include documenting Alabama cave shrimp movements in Madison County.
Stuart Poss at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi completed a contract with the U.S. EPA that resulted in a workshop on identifying potentially endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico and investigations into the research needs for these species. This work utilized the archived collections of ichthyological museums which possessed major holdings of species from the Gulf to document rare and potentially imperiled species. Historical evidence was evaluated to establish that 23 species of fishes may be disappearing, becoming rare, or are otherwise imperiled over parts of their range, and one species was found to be extinct in the Gulf. The results of the workshop and associated information will be available on the U.S. EPA Information Network (GIN).
Mark Peterson, also at the Research Lab, just finished sampling for Gulf Coast Cycleptus elongatus from the Pearl and Pascagoula rivers. A MS student, Doug Snyder, is finishing his thesis on the life history of Enneacanthus gloriosus; a separate habitat paper on the bluespotted sunfish is due out in March in J. Freshwater Ecol. Mark also just finished a final report on the distribution and habitat of Fundulus jenkinsi in Jackson County, where he recorded the first collection of the species in the Pascagoula River. He hopes to get funding to look elsewhere in the Pascagoula.
Melvin Warren at the U.S. Forest Service Hydrology Lab in Oxford, Mississippi reports that he and Wendell Haag have a manuscript coming out in JNABS documenting fish-hosts and reproductive strategies for six species of Mobile Basin mussels, including four federally listed species. They also have a manuscript in review on fish-hosts, mussel communities, and habitat interrelationships in the upper Sipsey Fork (Black Warrior River). Melvin and Wendell will conduct fish-host trials for two or more mussel species from Shoal Creek watershed in Talladega National Forest in east-central Alabama. They also plan to quantitatively sample the mussel fauna in Little South Fork Cumberland River this summer and assess the interrelationships of the fish and mussel community, with emphasis on the effects of surface mining on the lower third of the river. Melvin and Mitzi Pardew are completing a manuscript documenting effects of road crossings on fish movement in several streams, and Melvin and Davis Lonzarich are revising a manuscript documenting the effects of habitat spacing and sequence on the ability of small-stream fishes to re-colonize defaunated stream pools; both studies were in the Ouachita National Forest.
Carol Johnston, also at the Hydrology Lab, reports research activities on population dynamics of rare fishes in the Conasauga River. She is also studying sound production in darters, as well as running experimental studies on the role of female choice on reproductive success of hosts in nest association systems. Lastly, Carol is identifying characteristics of mobile and non-mobile fish populations of selected stream fishes.
Steve Ross at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg reports that Todd Slack completed his dissertation on the interaction of flooding and stream fish assemblages and that he is now working as a post-doc on Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi and on larval ecology of Etheostoma rubrum. Brett Albanese is completing his thesis on the life history of Pteronotropis signipinnis. Todd and Brett have completed a distributional study of Notropis chalybaeus in Mississippi. This species was not collected from any of the historical sites, and was found at only one new site (on the Escatawpa River). Martin O'Connell is continuing work on the use of floodplains by stream fishes. Martin, Todd, John Erwing, and Steve are completing a manuscript on the distribution of Notropis melanostomus in Mississippi, primarily in oxbow lakes off of the Pascagoula River. Steve and T. Rauch completed a survey for Leptolucania ommata and failed to find any individuals at the historic site in Jackson Creek, or in any other Mississippi stream. Lastly, The Inland Fishes of Mississippi is scheduled for publication by the University Press of Mississippi in March 1998!
Chris Taylor at Mississippi State University in Starkville is compiling all historic records from the Tombigbee River as a baseline database for future work in the drainage. Along these lines, Chris has a graduate student studying the spatial and temporal distribution of fishes in Luxapallila Creek relative to historical collections.
Jan Hoover at the Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi reports that he and his staff have tagged 250 Scaphirhynchus platorynchus with Peterson discs over the last two years; over 50 of these were also tagged with PIT tags and field measurements and counts were made. So far there have been two recaptures. They have collected, measured, tagged, and released two Scaphirhynchus albus this winter, but several sturgeon have been "pallid-ish." Jan hopes many more pallid sturgeon will be tagged before the river comes up later this spring. They are also collecting the first brood stock specimens for a fish hatchery in Louisiana.
Hank Bart at Tulane University has learned via the Louisiana Audubon Society that the Corps of Engineers is planning to build a water-control structure at Wilson Slough (a scenic waterway) on the Pearl River to prevent the slough from capturing more of the flow of the main river, then dredge a pilot channel in the river between the control structure and Walkiah Bluff. This project's purpose is to benefit a boat launch in the area. Unfortunately, this section of the river is home to one of the largest mussel beds left in the Pearl, and dredging would almost certainly destroy it. The project may be hampered by a serious mercury contamination problem in the river, which would be exacerbated by more dredging. Hank and R.D. Suttkus are almost certain that Percina aurora is extirpated from the Pearl River. Collections at all historic sites for this species over the last two years produced only two specimens from the Leaf River above Hattiesburg. The only other record during this time period was one specimen from the Leaf River by a crew from the Illinois Natural History Survey last year. An emergency meeting with federal and state agencies and area ichthyologists resulted in an agreement to pool resources on all future field work and incorporate snorkeling surveys. A decision to list the species will be made after a third year of field work. Pat Rakes of Conservation Fisheries, Inc. and Steve Ross (USM) agreed to use Percina copelandi and P. brevicauda, respectively, as surrogate species to learn about breeding and lab propagation protocols to be used for P. aurora.
Bob Cashner at the University of New Orleans reports that his graduate students are busy with projects in Region IV. Jeff Stewart is doing a comprehensive study of fish communities in the Bogue Chitto River (Pearl River). Chris Schieble is working on the life history of Ambloplites ariommus in the Pearl River drainage. Jeff, Chris, and Bob are involved in a study of Lawrence Creek, a small tributary to the Bogue Chitto that has a surprisingly high species richness. They are also involved in a large, four-year nekton survey of Lake Pontchartrain. Samples at sites collected by Thompson and Verrett in 1979 were begun in October 1996. Lastly, Bob reports that a former student's survey of Bayou Lacombe in 1988 was completely devoid of any Cyprinella venusta, even though it was the most abundant species collected in a 1975 survey of the bayou. Monthly samples each spring for the past two years have still not found a single specimen of C. venusta.
Bruce Thompson at Louisiana State University reports that the descriptions of the last two southeastern logperch are well underway. The Gulf logperch is in press as Occ. Pap. Mus. Nat. Sci., LSU No. 72. The Mobile logperch is in review. One more paper is planned; a synthesis and phylogeny of all southern forms, including shape analyses.
Brooks Burr at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale reports the collection of a juvenile specimen of Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum in June 1996 from Irish Bayou, Louisiana (Lake Pontchartrain), which represents either a pet release or is evidence of reproduction. He also has collected young-of-the-year silver carp in a ponded area near the Ohio River mouth. Brooks is still getting records of Mugil cephalus in the lower Ohio and adjacent Mississippi rivers.
Rick Mayden and Herb Boschung at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa are working on the completion of their Alabama fish book. Rick and Brooks Burr are completing their systematic study on the Cycleptus elongatus complex. Rick is also examining variation in the Etheostoma ditrema, E. ramseyi, and E. zonistium complexes, as well as finishing a status survey on Etheostoma ditrema. Graduate student Rex Strange is studying the systematics of the southern walleye. Cesar Blanco is studying habitat usage of Etheostoma chermocki in Turkey Creek (Black Warrior River). Results of this study will be used to assist in the development of a watershed management plan for Turkey Creek by Jefferson County and the USFWS.
Ron Larson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Jackson, Mississippi has been the driving force in the formation of a recovery plan for Scaphirhynchus suttkusi in cooperation with state and federal agencies and business coalitions. The Service is funding a retrofit for the Marion Fish Hatchery for Alabama sturgeon propagation. Funding will also be provided to the State, Auburn Coop. unit, and the Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station for broodstock collection efforts in the lower Alabama River. Plans are to have four to five netting/trotline crews on the river during April and May. Ron reports that the Alabama sturgeon is currently a candidate for federal listing. On a different topic, Ron is also trying to secure funds to begin several new Section VI projects in his region.