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Missouri River Scaphirhynchus albus (pallid sturgeon) effects analysis—Integrative report 2016

July 15, 2016

The Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon Effects Analysis was designed to carry out three components of an assessment of how Missouri River management has affected, and will affect, population dynamics of endangered Scaphirhynchus albus (pallid sturgeon): (1) collection of reliable scientific information, (2) critical assessment and synthesis of available data and analyses, and (3) analysis of the effects of actions on listed species and their habitats. This report is a synthesis of the three components emphasizing development of lines of evidence relating potential future management actions to pallid sturgeon population dynamics. We address 21 working management hypotheses that emerged from an expert opinion-based filtering process.

The ability to quantify linkages from abiotic changes to pallid sturgeon population dynamics is compromised by fundamental information gaps. Although a substantial foundation of pallid sturgeon science has been developed during the past 20 years, our efforts attempt to push beyond that understanding to provide predictions of how future management actions may affect pallid sturgeon responses. For some of the 21 hypotheses, lines of evidence are limited to theoretical deduction, inference from sparse empirical datasets, or expert opinion. Useful simulation models have been developed to predict the effects of management actions on survival of drifting pallid sturgeon free embryos in the Yellowstone and Upper Missouri River complex (hereafter referred to as the “upper river”), and to assess the effects of flow and channel reconfigurations on habitat availability in the Lower Missouri River, tributaries, and Mississippi River downstream of Gavins Point Dam (hereafter referred to as the “lower river”). A population model also has been developed that can be used to assess sensitivity of the population to survival of specific life stages, assess some hypotheses related to stocking decisions, and explore a limited number of management scenarios.

Consideration of lines of evidence for each of the 21 hypotheses includes a discussion of how the degree of uncertainty and risk associated with each hypothesis may guide science and implementation strategies. Implementation strategies include full implementation in the field, limited implementations as field-scale experiments, or (in the case of greatest uncertainty) implementation as learning actions, including research and opportunistic experiments or field-based gradient studies. Given the substantive uncertainties associated with pallid sturgeon population dynamics and the need to continually assimilate and assess new information, we proposed that an Effects Analysis-like process should be considered an integral part of ongoing Missouri River adaptive management.

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