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USING A WATERSHED ECOLOGICAL RISK ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK TO MANAGE THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES POPULATIONS

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Abstract:

The Clinch/Powell watershed in southeast U.S. harbors an unusual number of threatened mussel and fish species and they are declining rapidly. USEPA's ecological risk assessment framework was used to determine likely causes of fauna decline and potentially effective management strategies. All data were stored in a Graphical Information System (GIS) and the overlap of land use coverages and biological data were used to create and test hypotheses. Analyses of one subwatershed suggested that agricultural activities in the riparian zone had more influence on stream habitat quality, mussel species richness, and fish IBI than agricultural activity further upland. Furthermore, upland agricultural best management practices (BMPs) implemented during the 1980s were relatively ineffective in decreasing sedimentation instream, resulting in further declines in native mussels in that subwatershed. For the Clinch and Powell watershed as a whole, fish IBI and mussel species richness were likely to be poor if the riparian corridor comprised > 50% agricultural land cover. Forward stepwise multiple regression indicated that percent cropland, pasture area, and proximity to urban areas, mining, and major highways affected fish IBI. Analyses of co-occurring stressors indicated that native fish and mussel populations were at greatest risk in upper reaches of the watershed, fragmenting populations and further promoting species decline. GIS mapping of stressor sources and native mussel concentration sites indicated that several currently viable populations are vulnerable to extirpation unless further management options are implemented. Our results indicate that restoration and maintenance of naturally vegetated riparian corridors, as well as more rigorous implementation of agricultural BMPs, may help protect declining threatened and endangered native species in this watershed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864700785149738

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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