Alabama Strategic Habitat Unit (SHU)

Science Center Objects

Alabama is host to a variety of freshwater species, many of which are critically imperiled. USGS and partners focus conservation activities in high priority watersheds throughout the state.

Fifty-one high priority watersheds known as Strategic Habitat Units (SHU) have been identified in Alabama

Fifty-one high priority watersheds known as Strategic Habitat Units (SHU) have been identified in Alabama

Science Issue and Relevance: Alabama is recognized for its freshwater biodiversity with more than 310 native fish, 180 mussel, 160 snail, and 85 crayfish species, many of which are critically imperiled. In an effort to conserve this unique fauna, preserve watershed health and biotic integrity, and improve water quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA), and the Alabama Clean Water Partnership (CWP) have identified 51 high priority watersheds in Alabama known as Strategic Habitat Units (SHU) (Figure 1). SHUs focus conservation activities for more than 250 listed and at-risk fishes, mussels, snails, and crayfishes. The FWS and Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) have different but related concerns and obligations resulting from the presence of these threatened and endangered species in their state waters, and have solicited data management and application development support from the USGS to help them address their issues.

Methodology for Addressing Issue: The goal of this project is to develop an online stream crossing database and web mapping application that can be used by multiple partners as well as providing ALDOT with a product that can assist their Maintenance and Environmental Divisions with prioritizing routine workloads related to sensitive FWS species locations. Currently, there is no common database shared among the partners, and this project aims to rectify that shortcoming with a shared application allowing the partners to enter, perform quality control, and consume the information in ways which bring efficiencies to their individual processes. The final product will also have the ability to calculate sediment risk index (SRI) and provide access to the fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) generated at crossings.

Future Steps: The application and index calculations will be refined by working with subject matter experts from Alabama; the list of experts may possibly be extended to include experts in adjacent states with similar stream crossing assessment issues. Additional work will also be performed to extend the rating index to cover both paved and unpaved crossing.