Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Performance evaluation of a channel rehabilitation project on the Lower Missouri River and implications for the dispersal of larval pallid sturgeon

July 27, 2023

In the Lower Missouri River, extensive channel modifications have altered hydraulic and morphologic conditions and reduced the river's ecological integrity. One species that has been adversely affected by these changes is the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus). Mainstem dams on the Missouri River restrict the upstream migration of adults and limit the downstream dispersal of larvae. Channelization to facilitate commercial barge traffic has also simplified the river. The self-dredging navigation channel is a highly efficient conduit for transporting sand, which has resulted in diminished rearing habitat along the lower river. Recently, a series of experimental projects was implemented to reengineer selected bends of the Lower Missouri River with the goal of increasing the interception and retention of passively drifting age-0 sturgeon into habitats more conducive to rearing. Here, we evaluate the hydraulic performance of one of these rehabilitation projects to gain insight on the implications of these interventions for age-0 pallid sturgeon dispersal. We conducted a dye-trace experiment and complementary hydraulic and particle-tracking modeling to examine the spatial and temporal patterns of passive dispersal in and around the rehabilitated study reach. Results from both the dye-trace experiment and particle-tracking model highlight the presence of several interception pathways from the navigation channel into more suitable rearing habitat on channel margins. Moreover, our results indicate that residence times within the rearing habitat are increased in comparison to the main channel. Although we cannot provide biological evaluation at this time to assess whether the rehabilitated study bend intercepts passively drifting age-0 pallid sturgeon, our analysis shows that hydraulic conditions within the rehabilitated bend would favor interception and retention of passively drifting particles (or, presumably, larvae) from the navigation channel and into slower moving, shallow-water habitat. Moreover, our particle-tracking model provides a new capability to explore important biological transport processes across a range of flows, organisms, and river environments.

Publication Year 2023
Title Performance evaluation of a channel rehabilitation project on the Lower Missouri River and implications for the dispersal of larval pallid sturgeon
DOI 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2023.107045
Authors Brandon James Sansom, Bruce Call, Carl J. Legleiter, R. B. Jacobson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Engineering
Index ID 70247800
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center