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Science information to support Missouri River Scaphirhynchus albus (pallid sturgeon) effects analysis

January 26, 2016

The Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon Effects Analysis (EA) was commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a foundation of understanding of how pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) population dynamics are linked to management actions in the Missouri River. The EA consists of several steps: (1) development of comprehensive, conceptual ecological models illustrating pallid sturgeon population dynamics and links to management actions and other drivers; (2) compilation and assessment of available scientific literature, databases, and models; (3) development of predictive, quantitative models to explore the system dynamics and population responses to management actions; and (4) analysis and assessment of effects of system operations and actions on species’ habitats and populations. This report addresses the second objective, compilation and assessment of relevant information.

Scientific information on pallid sturgeon and its environment has grown substantially during the last decade. Presently available (2015) information indicates that stocked sturgeon are surviving and growing, and that wild and hatchery sturgeon are spawning in the wild. However, natural recruitment to age-1 and older has not been detected since systematic sampling began in 2005. Population models indicate the sensitivity of population growth to certain demographic variables, in particular early-life stage survival and perhaps adult fecundity. This report documents the existing population models for the pallid sturgeon, and the substantial quantities of information developed through the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Program (PSPAP), the Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (HAMP), the Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project (CSRP), range-wide genetics databases, and related research studies. The reference database compiled for the EA consists of over 190 peer-reviewed documents specifically related to pallid sturgeon and over 12,000 references on the Missouri River system and related species.

Notwithstanding the large quantity of information available, the EA faces challenges in synthesizing the information into useful, quantitative models. In particular, critical demographic parameters for population models remain uncertain and the functional relationships between the two main categories of physical management action—changes in flow regime and reengineering channel form—and pallid sturgeon survival responses are obscure. In addition, there is an overarching uncertainty about how physical management actions interact with propagation management actions in view of evolving understanding of genetic structuring of the pallid sturgeon population. Synthesis efforts are also challenged by the fragmentation of information sources among projects and agencies; one objective of this report is to facilitate future assessments by providing documentation of what information is available and where.

 

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