Threats to imperiled freshwater fauna in the U.S. were assessed through an experts survey addressing anthropogenic stressors and their sources. Specifically, cause of historic declines and current limits to recovery were identified for 135 imperiled freshwater species of fishes, crayfishes, dragonflies and damselflies, mussels, and amphibians. The survey was designed to identify threats with sufficient specificity to inform resource managers and regulators faced with translating information about predominant biological threats into specific, responsive actions. The findings point to altered sediment loads and nutrient inputs from agricultural nonpoint pollution; interference from exotic species; and altered hydrologic regimes associated with impoundment operations as the three leading threats nationwide, accompanied by many lesser but still significant threats. Variations in threats among regions and among taxa were also evident. Eastern species are most commonly affected by altered sediment loads from agricultural activities, whereas exotic species, habitat removal/damage, and altered hydrologic regimes predominate in the West. Altered sediment loading from agricultural activities and exotic species are dominant problems for both eastern mussels and fishes. However, whereas eastern mussels appear to be more severely affected by altered nutrient impacts from hydroelectric impoundments and agricultural runoff. Our findings suggest that control of nonpoint source pollution associated with agriculture activities should be a very high priority for agricultural producers and governmental support programs. Additionally, the large number of hydropower dams in the U.S. subject to federal relicensing in coming years suggests a significant opportunity to restore natural hydrologic regimes in the affected rivers.
The Nature Conservancy, FWI