Efforts by a citizen's group, Putah Creek Council, to improve the flow regime of a California stream for ecosystem, aesthetic, recreational, educational, and research purposes led to a successful court trial in which fish conservation played a key role. A major issue around which the trial revolved was the proper interoperation of section (5937) of the California Fish and game Code, which states that fish must be maintained in "good condition" below a dam. We defined good condition to mean there had to be healthy individual fish in healthy populations that were part of healthy biotic communities. This definition resulted in a conceptual model for instream flows for the creek that favored native resident and anadromous fishes. The stream flow recommendations from this model had four components: living space flows for the entire creek, resident native fish spawning and rearing flows, anadromous fish flows, and habitat maintenance flows. The trial judge, in attempting to balance competing demands for the water, ordered the implementation of only the first two recommendations. The order has been appealed by the water interests, but regardless of the final outcome, the court's decision reflects the growing public interest in protecting streams, the need for innovative use of existing legal tools to try and protect aquatic resources, and the importance of biological information in developing flow recommendations for complex fish assemblages.
Water of sufficient quality and quantity is critical to all life. Increasing human population and growth of technology require human society to devote more and more attention to protection of adequate supplies of water. Although perception of biological degradation stimulated current state and federal legislation on the quality of water resources, that biological focus was lost in the search for easily measured physical and chemical surrogates. The "fishable and swimmable" goal of the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (PL 92-500) and its charge to "restore and maintain" biotic integrity illustrate that law's biological underpinning. Further, the need for operational definitions of terms like "biological integrity" and "unreasonable degradation" and for ecologically sound tools to measure divergence from societal goals have increased interest in biological monitoring. Assessment of water resource quality by sampling biological communities in the field (ambient biological monitoring) is a promising approach that requires expanded use of ecological expertise. One such approach, the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), provides a broadly based, multiparameter tool for the assessment of biotic integrity in running waters. IBI based on fish community attributes has now been applied widely in North America. The success of IBI has stimulated the development of similar approaches suing other aquatic taxa. Expanded use of ecological expertise in ambient biological monitoring is essential to the protection of water resources. Ecologists have the expertise to contribute significantly to those programs.
The Mississippi River is the hardest working river in America: a central artery for commerce, a stormwater management system for the two-thirds of the nation, the central flyway for 40% of the nation's migratory waterfowl. Each of the river's distinct forms of habitat is disappearing: backwater marshes dominated by emergent plants are filling in or, alternatively, becoming open, lifeless turbid waters; floodplain lakes have filled with silt; aquatic plants are not replaced because perpetually turbid waters block light penetration; sediment buries mussel beds and deepwater pools' islands erode, eliminating mast-producing forests. High water tables undermine floodplain forests, which lack higher ground to replace themselves. Restrictions of fish movement by the dams makes the decline of habitat in a particular pool more significant by blocking fish access to habitats in another pool. These problems are exacerbated by current river uses, and by past and present land uses that have altered basinwide hydrology and accelerated the rate at which sediment enters the river. Sediments and nutrients enter the river at unsustainable rates due to past and present land use practices that increase erosion and eliminate wetlands and stream-side buffers. Commercial and recreational vessels resuspend sediments in the water column, blocking light penetration and contributing to the loss of backwaters. Even in its reduced for, the Upper Mississippi represents the last piece of Midwestern America's Great Rivers, supporting migrating waterfowl, endangered mussel species and the most ancient lineage of fish in North America. Whether this system continues to survive and flourish depends on whether dynamic river forces can be sufficiently restored to make the river system self-sustaining. Preserving and restoring the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers requires three types of actions: 1. Recreate dynamic river forces to achieve self-sustaining habitat restoration 2. Minimize the operational impacts of the navigation system 3. Achieve no net increase in sediment by 2010
Faber, Scott, American Rivers
excerpts of executive summary used as abstract.
The RCC, FPC, and RPM are all inadequate for understanding the main channel as a functioning foodweb. The purpose of the paper is to provide data on fish habitat and food preferences in large rivers, connect the main channel's relationship to fish and other habitats, and to describe the main channel foodweb. The studies were carried out on the Illinois River and the Upper Mississippi River.