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Effects of high flow experiments on warm-water native and nonnative fishes

March 31, 2019

The harsh environmental conditions and extreme flooding that created Grand Canyon also shaped the unique native fish that evolved in the Colorado River. Native fish have evolved their physiology, morphology and behavior to withstand high flood events. Flooding has been shown to benefit spawning, survival and recruitment of juvenile native fishes in many southwestern rivers. Annual pre-dam flooding on the Colorado River was sometimes more than double the flows released during a typical High-Flow Experiment (HFE). It is therefore unlikely that the 3-4 days of high flow created by HFEs will have negative impacts on native fish directly. However, HFEs can cause dispersal of flood adapted non-native species like green sunfish that utilize floods to invade and colonize new environments. Continued efforts to reduce known populations of green sunfish that inhabit backwater ponds before conducting HFEs may be necessary to reduce risks of spreading invasive green sunfish downstream.

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