Monday, March 28, 2011

Big News from our conservation partners at Conservation Fisheries, Inc.!

Our friends at Conservation Fisheries, Inc. in Knoxville, TN just announced the first ever propagation of the extremely rare Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi)!  CFI has had repeated success with the captive propagation of rare and imperiled southeastern fish, and we are happy to share their exciting news.

Conasauga logperch are one of the rarest vertebrates in the world, with the entire population estimated to be only a few hundred fish.  They are found from only about 20 miles of the Conasauga River in northern Georgia and extreme southeastern Tennessee.  They inhabit rocky riffles with fast, clear, clean water.  Their habitat is under threat from erosion and poor agricultural land use practices.  TNACI partnered with CFI to collect a small sample of adults for a pilot propagation program.  We also participated in some population assessments and will be conducting some genetic analysis of the population.  This information will help with making conservation decisions that best meet the needs of this extremely rare fish

The larvae you see in the video below are the first fruits of this partnership.

Here is some video of the adults demonstrating their nest excavation behavior in captivity at CFI.

And finally, here is some video CFI captured of Conasauga logperch demonstrating feeding behavior in the wild.

We'll keep you posted on CFI's progress!

-Lee Friedlander, TNACI Conservation Associate

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tennessee Legislature Reviews Bills Banning Mountaintop Coal Removal

The Tennessee House of Representatives (HB0291) and Senate (SB 0577) are hearing similar bills banning the practice of mountaintop coal removal from the state.  The bills' summary states it would prohibit "issuing or renewing a permit, certification, or variance that would allow surface coal mining operations to alter or disturb any ridge line above 2,000 feet elevation above sea level."

Without exploring the issue in too much technical detail, mountaintop coal removal is the process in which coal is extracted from hillsides using explosives to fragment large pieces of rock apart to access coal reserves.  This process has been used in the Appalachian mountains at the expense of both aesthetic beauty and environmental quality.  Mountaintop coal removal literally flattens mountains.  The coal is extracted and the other mining debris is then disposed of by dumping in low lying areas.  These areas hold important watersheds that are vital to maintaining water quality and preserving the Appalachian Mountain's rich biodiversity. The mining debris chokes out small mountain streams, and the runoff from these dumping sites is responsible for both increased turbidity and degradation of other water quality parameters further downstream.  The mountain's topography is drastically changed, and the tree coverage is eliminated further compounding the problems from erosion.

Here are some links to other blogs and articles concerning mountaintop coal removal:

NRDC Blog  another NRDC Blog

Definition of terms from the United Mountain Defense Fund
Zeb Mountain, Tennessee. Photo by United Mountain Defense

This issue is important to Tennesseans.  We urge you to seek out more information, form your own opinion and then contact your representatives and tell them what you think. Click HERE to identify your Tennessee state senator and representative.

Lee Friedlander, TNACI Conservation Associate

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Aquatic Invasive Threats: Didymo

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week...

Aquatic ecosystems across the planet, like their terrestrial neighbors, are threatened by the introduction of nonnative, invasive species.  Invasive species are organisms that are not naturally found in a given habitat that have been introduced by some human-caused means.

Many times, these introductions are the result of a deliberate act:  dumping out a bait bucket with fish from another stream, the release of an unwanted pet, the planting of an ornamental plant from another region.  Sometimes, the human responsible for an introduction is completely unaware of the act he or she is committing.  This is often the case with an aquatic invasive species known as Didymo (Didymospenia geminata).  This diatom- a kind of brown algae- is native to northern Europe and possibly northeastern Canadian streams. In its native environment, it occupies very cold, low nutrient streams with fast moving water.  It is thought to be introduced by contaminated boats, fishing waders, or felt-soled boots.

One common nickname for Didymo is "rock snot". Image from USDA
Since the 1990s, Didymo has been found outside of its native range in systems in the western U.S.  In 2005, it was discovered in Tennessee.  Once established in a stream, it covers rocky substrates with a blanket of blooms that crowd out native plant and animal communities.  Large infestations resemble a slimy, brown shag carpeting that can cover 100% of affected stream bottom.

The best way to help prevent the spread of this nuisance algae is to properly clean and sterilize fishing equipment after each use.  The algae can survive on fishing equipment for many weeks, even if the equipment seems dry.  Follow these recommendations from the US EPA to help reduce the risk of spreading Didymo:

  • When leaving a watershed, check equipment for clumps of Didymo.  If any are found, remove them and leave them at the site.  If any are detected, inspect all equipment very thoroughly.
  • Scrub and soak all equipment with a 2% (by volume) bleach solution.  Dish detergent is also suitable.
  • If cleaning of equipment is not feasible, let equipment dry completely for at least 48 hours before transporting to another watershed.
Additional Resources:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Interbasin Water Transfer

Water shortages in Georgia are not a new problem. The 2008 drought and recent court decisions have again highlighted the need for increased planning on how to meet the state’s freshwater needs. Recently, state officials have again broached the possibility of interbasin water transfers from the Tennessee River, a topic that always attracts the interest of Chattanooga media and residents.

Interbasin water transfers involve moving water from one watershed into another to meet resource demands from residents or industry. In this situation, water would be taken from the Tennessee River and transferred to users in other watersheds in northern Georgia. The water, once used, would then be discharged in Georgia’s rivers, resulting in a loss of Tennessee River water downstream of the transfer site. Returning the water to its source river isn’t feasible.

Besides being costly, interbasin transfers are not sustainable solutions. They rely upon natural resources from outside the watershed for continued growth, creating heavy environmental costs. For example, interbasin water transfers increase the spread of exotic species and can impact the amount of downstream flow that is critical for many imperiled species. For these reasons, we strongly support community investment in water conservation initiatives as the most important step in tackling water shortages.

Dr. Anna George, TNACI Director