Water resource development and sturgeon (Acipenseridae): state of the science and research gaps related to fish passage, entrainment, impingement and behavioural guidance

Abstract

Acipenserids (sturgeons) live in large rivers and lakes in North America and Eurasia, where many species and populations are considered imperiled. One of the most pervasive threats across the global range of sturgeon is water resource development (e.g., hydropower dams, water intakes for irrigation, industrial use, or human consumption). We report on the outcome of a literature review focused on interactions between sturgeon and water resource development. We focused on the persistent issue of dam passage (both upstream and downstream), impingement, and entrainment, which are all relevant issues for both existing and planned facilities. We discuss aspects of sturgeon sensory physiology, and how knowledge of sensory physiology can be used for behavioural guidance. We also consider how the swimming ability and style of sturgeon is relevant for passage. Most of the literature emanated from research on just a few species (especially lake sturgeon, white sturgeon, green sturgeon, and shortnose sturgeon). Although there are several examples of apparent “success stories” (e.g., successful upstream fish passage, efforts to reduce impingement and entrainment), there are also many failures, and such examples are likely under-reported. Without significant investments in solutions-oriented research related to sturgeon-water resource development interactions, we submit that fish passage, entrainment and impingement problems for acipenserids will remain. There is a need for research that spans life-stages, compares different species, and considers how passage, entrainment, and impingement influence demography. Further, there is a need for investment into evidence-based implementation of mitigation infrastructure and management strategies to ensure conservation needs of sturgeons are adequately considered.

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Fig. 1
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Photo credit: USGS

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Photo credit: Cooke Lab

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Photo credit: City of Holyoke

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Photo credit: Wisconsin DNR

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Acknowledgements

Support for this project was provided by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. Cooke is further supported by the Moose Cree First Nation (Grant No. WCS-FECPL) Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs Program (Garnt No. Cooke - FECPL). We are thankful for thoughtful input from two anonymous referees.

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Appendix: methods for literature review

Appendix: methods for literature review

Given the sparsity of literature on sturgeon and water resource development, it was clear from the start of this project that it would not be possible to conduct a systematic review nor a meta-analysis. Nonetheless, where possible and practical we adopted best practices for evidence synthesis (see Haddaway et al. 2018). For example, we created a stakeholder advisory committee involving researchers and end users engaged in sturgeon management (Haddaway et al. 2017). We searched the Web of Science Core Collection and Google Scholar in November of 2018 using the following Boolean search string (“sturgeon*” or “acipenser* and “entrain*” or “dam” or “passage” or “fishway” or “fish way” or “impinge” or “guid” or “ladder” or “elevator” or “turbine” or “lift” or “swim*” or “screen*” or “rack*” or “intake” or “hydro*” or “irrigation” or “channel*” or “bypass”). We screened all papers located using these search strings based on title and abstract and retained those that dealt with the topic of this paper. We also searched several databases of screened papers for formal systematic reviews—one related to fish passage (https://osf.io/xvzbf/) and one related to entrainment (Rytwinski et al. 2017)—simply using the word “sturgeon*” and “acipenser*”. We did not restrict ourselves to peer reviewed documents and included many technical reports and theses. Our search was restricted to English but we located several non-English or translated documents (from Russia). Papers were not subject to critical appraisal as in most cases the research that was conducted focused on a single site and thus lacked replication or appropriate controls—something common in studies evaluating fish responses to water resource development.

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Cooke, S.J., Cech, J.J., Glassman, D.M. et al. Water resource development and sturgeon (Acipenseridae): state of the science and research gaps related to fish passage, entrainment, impingement and behavioural guidance. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 30, 219–244 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-020-09596-x

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Keywords

  • Dam
  • Fishway
  • Safe passage
  • Downstream
  • Upstream
  • Hydropower
  • Barrier
  • Connectivity