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Modelling grass carp egg transport using a 3-D hydrodynamic river model: The role of egg retention in dead zones on spawning success

April 24, 2020

Invasive grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) are known to spawn in the Sandusky River, Ohio, USA, within the Great Lakes Basin, and are threatening to expand throughout the Great Lakes. Successful spawning is thought to require that eggs remain in suspension until hatching, which depends on river hydrodynamics and temperature-dependent egg development. Previous modelling efforts used one-dimensional hydrodynamic models that simplify egg movement by not simulating low-velocity zones within the river. To examine the effect of low-velocity zones on egg transit times and hatching rates, we developed a novel coupling of a biophysical Lagrangian particle tracker and three-dimensional hydrodynamic model on the Sandusky River during a high-flow event. The model successfully predicted egg-capture data for a range of developmental stages and revealed a mechanism that resuspends eggs trapped in low-velocity zones. The resuspension mechanism increases the residence time of grass carp eggs in spawning tributaries and can lead to successful hatching occurring in shorter distances than previously estimated. Grass carp potentially spawning in shorter tributary lengths has widespread implications for efforts preventing establishment in the Great Lakes Basin.