Selenium on Sediment in Lower Gunnison River Basin Critical Habitat

Science Center Objects

The Gunnison Basin Selenium Management Program (SMP) implemented a water-quality monitoring network in 2011 in the lower Gunnison River Basin in Colorado. Selenium (Se) is a trace element that bioaccumulates in aquatic food chains and can cause reproductive failure, deformities, and other harmful effects.

The dissolved concentration of selenium in the water column is not necessarily a good indicator or predictor of toxicity to fish, which highlights the need to better understand the role of sediment in the spatial and temporal variability and availability of selenium in aquatic habitat.

The Selenium Management Program seeks to identify and mitigate selenium sources thereby decreasing levels in endangered fish habitat in the Gunnison River and tributaries. As part of the SMP process, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was asked to develop a Selenium Science Plan to help identify data gaps and prioritize scientific studies needed.


The primary objective of the proposed work is to characterize the spatial and seasonal variability of selenium loading in the proposed study reach of the Gunnison River. The project will support and compliment the SMP by monitoring selenium to better understand the effects of suspended-sediment sources and transport on selenium concentrations and loads along the Gunnison River near Delta, CO.