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Entries in USGS (14)

Tuesday
May242016

Islands, Other Habitat Created in Mississippi River's Pool 9

Armored with rocks to prevent erosion, nearly 100 acres of new islands will provide prime habitat for smallmouth bass when an $11.8 million restoration project on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River is completed in 2018.

Additionally, dredged areas that provided fill for the islands will offer valuable overwintering areas at least 8 feet deep for fish.

"This will be great for fish, waterfowl, shorebirds, and the people who enjoy them," said Karen Osterkamp, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as seasonal work resumed recently on this portion of the river that separates northeastern Iowa from Wisconsin.

The ambitious rehabilitation was planned cooperatively by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Departments of Natural Resources in both Iowa and Wisconsin, with funding through the Army Corps of Engineers' Upper Mississippi River Restoration/Environmental Management Program.

Since Lock and Dam No. 9 was built in 1937, channelization has resulted in the loss of many natural islands and flood plain forests, reducing habitat for both fish and migratory birds. Seven islands and three emergent wetlands are being constructed in the 2,200-acre Harpers Slough backwater  between river miles 650 and 653 at the lower end of the pool to help restore the ecological balance.

"One of the main goals is to maintain habitat for  tundra swans and canvasback ducks that stop on Pool 9 during their migrations," said Mike Griffin, the Iowa's Mississippi River wildlife biologist.

He expects the new wetlands to bear large crops of arrowhead plants, whose underwater tubers, known as duck potatoes, are a preferred food for the thousands of tundra swans that visit the pool each year.

Monday
Jul272015

Early Warning System Created for Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake Erie algal boom. Photo by Michigan Sea Grant

Four federal agencies have joined forces to create an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems.

Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use satellites to gather color dates from freshwater bodies during scans of the Earth. They then will share the findings with state and local agencies so they can provide public health advisories when needed.

“In addition, the project will improve the understanding of the environmental causes and health effects of these cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms in the United States,” NOAA said in a press release.

NOAA added that these blooms are a global problem. “Cyanobacteria (blue-green alga)  is of particular concern because it produces toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish, or shellfish,” it said.

HABs have been on the increase since the mid 1990s, according to Michigan Sea Grant College Program. In the Great Lakes, malfunctioning septic systems, products with phosphates (dishwater detergent) and nitrogen (lawn fertilizers), and urban and agricultural runoff likely have contributed.

“Some scientists also link the increase of harmful algal blooms to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and the ability of the mussels to filter feed,” Sea Grant said. “Essentially, they eat the good algae and phytoplankton but release organisms like blue-green algae back into the water intact.”

HABs annually cost the nation about $64 million because of loss of recreational usage, additional treatment for drinking water, and decline in waterfront property values. In August 2014, Toledo, Ohio, an algal bloom in Lake Erie forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to temporarily ban consumption of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.

The new collaborative network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study microscopic algal communities in the ocean, which play a role in climate change, ocean ecology, and the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean.

Thursday
Apr162015

Human Drugs Harming Fish Fertility

Prescription drugs intended for humans are affecting our fisheries in frightening ways. That's because they or their residues are flushed down toilets and into our waterways. Birth control pills are among the most concerning because they affect fertility in bass and other species.

For example, a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn't good.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a University of Missouri assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at USGS. "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."

Read more here.

Additionally, check out this previous post at Activist Angler about minnows exhibiting bizarre behavior because of drugs.

Tuesday
Mar172015

Troublesome Invasive Plant Returns to Potomac River

Sassafras River Association volunteers collected these water chestnuts from creeks and streams on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

A troublesome old invasive has reared its head once again on the Potomac River. While sampling fish populations, biologists with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) found a dense clump of water chestnuts, covering about ½ acre of water, near a boat rental dock in Pohick Bay Regional Park, 25 miles south of the nation’s capital.

Response was quick, as VGIF organized volunteers to hand pull the troublesome plant this past fall.

Water chestnut is probably a lot more troublesome and invasive potentially than snakeheads might be,” said biologist John Odenkirk.

“It was dense, but we got it. Hopefully, we nipped the potential for this plant to take over the bay and shut it down.”

Because it is an annual that sprouts from seeds, this fast-growing exotic is not susceptible to herbicides. It can be controlled only by pulling or mechanical harvest. The seeds have sharp needles that can attach to wildlife, clothing, and other items for transport to new areas, and they can remain viable in sediment for more than a decade. Just one acre of plants can yield enough seeds to cover 100 acres.

Native to both Asia and Europe, water chestnut was first confirmed on the Potomac in 1923, with a two-acre bed expanding to cover 41 miles of river, from Washington, D.C., to near Quantico, Va., in just two years. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the dense, floating mats restricted navigation, harmed fisheries, and killed off submersed plants with their thick canopy.

The Army Corps of Engineers mechanically harvested the infestation and the plant was considered mostly eradicated from the Potomac by 1945. But limited hand harvesting continued into the 1960s.

USGS is studying this more recent invader to determine its species and lineage. Its spiny seed pods don’t resemble those of water chestnuts found in Maryland and other states. Additionally, VGIF and volunteer stewards will keep an eye out for future outbreaks. 

Tuesday
Nov252014

Water Conservation Improves as Use Declines

Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years. According to a new USGS report, about 355 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the entire United States during 2010, which represents a 13 percent reduction of water use from 2005 when about 410 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970.

Reaching this 45-year low shows the positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management. Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country.

Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power was the largest type of water use nationally, with the other leading uses being irrigation, public supply and self-supplied industrial water, respectively. Withdrawals declined in each of these categories. Collectively, all of these uses represented 94 percent of total withdrawals from 2005-2010.

Irrigation withdrawals in the United States continued to decline since 2005, and more croplands were reported as using higher-efficiency irrigation systems in 2010. Shifts toward more sprinkler and micro-irrigation systems nationally and declining withdrawals in the West have contributed to a drop in the national average application rate from 2.32 acre-feet per acre in 2005 to 2.07 acre-feet per acre in 2010.

For the first time, withdrawals for public water supply declined between 2005 and 2010, despite a 4 percent increase in the nation’s total population. The number of people served by public-supply systems continued to increase and the public-supply per capita use declined to 89 gallons per day in 2010 from 100 gallons per day in 2005.

Declines in industrial withdrawals can be attributed to factors such as greater efficiencies in industrial processes, more emphasis on water reuse and recycling, and the 2008 U.S. recession, resulting in lower industrial production in major water-using industries.

Read more here.