Aquatic Communities in Large River Systems

USGS studies the ecology and biodiversity of large rivers and aquatic ecosystems to understand impacts of changing land and water use on fish, other aquatic communities, and their habitats and develops techniques to understand, conserve, and restore fish communities. We conduct research in large rivers including the Columbia River, Connecticut River, Klamath River, Elwha River, the Upper Mississippi River system, Missouri and Platte Rivers, Delaware River, and the Great Lakes and its coastal wetlands and urban coasts. Research to assess habitats and ecological functions lead to restoration activities in these aquatic systems in cooperation with partners including the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Corps of Engineers, and NOAA.

Impacts of Hydropower generation

Columbia River Fish Passage and Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric development as early as the late nineteenth century in the Columbia River Basin has been associated with declines in salmon stocks.

Related Publication: An evaluation of fish behavior upstream of the water temperature control tower at Cougar Dam, Oregon, using acoustic cameras, 2013

Evaluating the reintroduction potential and limiting factors associated with anadromous fish reintroductions in the Upper Lewis River, WA

Hydropower facilities on the Lewis River, WA eliminated historic runs of anadromous species to the headwaters of the Lewis River.

Freshwater Mussel Ecosystem Services

Genetics Provide New Hope for Endangered Freshwater Mussels

Though they serve a critical role in rivers and streams, freshwater mussels are threatened by habitat degradation such as dams, alteration to river channels, pollution and invasive species.

Related Publication: Comparative analysis of riverscape genetic structure in rare, threatened and common freshwater mussels

The Secret Lives of Mussels: America’s Most Endangered Species!

The mussels’ unique life cycle is part of the reason for their imperilment. Mussels live on the bottom of streams, rivers and lakes, partially buried in the sediment, feeding on algae and bacteria.

Large River Monitoring

Flow and Temperature Modeling

We developed scalable models of stream flow and temperature that respond to climate forcing (precipitation and air temperature) to generate stream flow and temperature forecasts that will seamlessly integrate into our fish population dynamics models.

Related Data Set: USGS Stream Temperature Tolerance, Connecticut River Watershed

Columbia River Research Laboratory

We conduct research on fishery issues in the Columbia River Basin

Related Product: In-reservoir behavior, dam passage, and downstream migration of juvenile Chinook salmon and juvenile steelhead from Detroit Reservoir and dam to Portland, Oregon, February 2013-February 2014

Klamath Basin Fishes and Aquatic Ecology

The Klamath Basin remains at the forefront of controversial water resource issues in the Western U.S. as evident by the 2006 closure and severe curtailment of the Chinook salmon.

Related Publication: Effects of lake surface elevation on shoreline-spawning Lost River Suckers

Elwha River Restoration

Restoration of the Elwha River included the removal of two large dams that had blocked salmon and sediment passage for almost 100 years.

Related Publication: Occupancy Patterns of Mammals and Lentic Amphibians in the Elwha River Riparian Zone Before Dam Removal

Upper Mississippi River Restoration

We are supporting decision makers with the information and understanding needed to maintain the Upper Mississippi River System as a viable multiple-use river ecosystem.

Related Publication: Ecosystem metabolism and nutrient dynamics in the main channel and backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River

Missouri and Platte Rivers

We investigate physiology, behavior, habitat dynamics, and population dynamics to understand how management affects endangered and threatened species like the pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and the piping plover.

Related Publication: Population trends, bend use relative to available habitat and within-river-bend habitat use of eight indicator species of Missouri and Lower Kansas River benthic fishes: 15 years after baseline assessment

Ecological Flows of Freshwater Fishes and Mussels in the Delaware River

We are determining the biological response of mussels and their host fish to physical parameters affected by flow, and to incorporate that information into a decision support system.

Related Publication: Behavioral responses of freshwater mussels to experimental dewatering.

Great Lakes Population Structure

We are aiding Great Lakes fisheries management and restoration by studying spatial and temporal population structure of Great Lakes fishes, including age and metapopulation (subpopulation) structure and genetic diversity.

Related Publication: Developing recreational harvest regulations for an unexploited lake trout population


Top Photo: Round hickerynut mussel. Photo courtesy of Kendall Moles, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.