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Summer 07 Ac - Esa Success Stories

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#1 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 12:41 PM

I'm really way too busy to write the long comment/response I want, it's a holiday weekend afterall, but The Center for Biological Diversity might want to use (or at least check to make sure) correct, up to date information, and proper citations when they put something out regarding the success of endangered species, let alone one of the most well known federally listed species. This is in no way targeted at AC/NANFA. This is just a prime example of how garbage in leads to garbage out and when Average Joe reads a press release or a reprint of a story picked up in another piece of media then finds out something quite different it does nothing but hurt the credibility of the scientific community as a whole.

#2 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 09:25 PM

I'm really way too busy to write the long comment/response I want...

First off, ANOTHER GREAT AC Chris!!! :) Man those Criswell pictures are just immaculate!!

Okay, you're going to need to tell more than that Matt. No one knows more about snail darter than you. What did they mispeak about?

FWIW, the quote concerning this species was something about 6 populations rising to 9 through reintroductions.

Were all 9 historic "discovered" populations? Or are there really 9 populations?

It was funny... The day Chris posted his teaser for the issue, I was about to post a topic to the effect of "What has the ESA really done for imperilled FISH species?" We've done fairly well with birds and mammals, but our aquatic organisms continue to flail miserably (check out the mussels if you want to really depress yourself), with a disproportionate number of new additions (if they ever happen again) coming from these ecosystems.


#3 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 06:58 AM

Eh it's 8 in the morning and I foolishly thought I'd check, so I'll get a short reply in.

The assumption that is made about all populations were there in 1974 is practically outrageous given the evidence that exists. No the nine streams where they have been found were not all "discoveries". Two were successful translocations. Many of the streams have only a few fish ever collected. I'll probably just post my report to FWS later. Saying there are 9 populations is just about as big of a stretch as their 1974 assumption too. I can actually add some hot off the press information and go into detail/speculate a little about it.

Todd, I've got an article somewhere about just what you were thinking of.

#4 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 05:24 PM

OK, I gotta ask: were the reports of snail darter populations totalling 9 and being recovered a misinterpretation of someone's work by the CBC, or was it poor work done by one person or group and then trumpeted by the CBC, or something else? I have no idea, or experience with this species.

#5 Guest_Irate Mormon_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 12:39 AM

Fascinating - my interest is piqued as well (haven't gotten my A/C yet).

#6 Guest_AC-Editor_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 07:53 AM

Here is the actual CBD report in question. Please point out the errors.

The snail darter (Percina tanasi) was discovered in 1973 in the lower Little Tennessee River. Prior to construction of impoundments in the Tennessee River drainage, it likely occurred in the mainstem of the Tennessee River and the lower reaches of its major tributaries from Fort Loudon downriver to the confluence of the Paint Rock River in Alabama [1]. Initially thought to occur only in the Little Tennessee River, natural populations of the species were subsequently found at five locations:

- Tennessee River. The darter occupies reaches below the confluence of the Little Tennessee River, below Watts Bar Dam, below Nickajack Dam, and below Chickamauga Dam [7].

- South Chickamauga Creek. Discovered in 1980 [2], this population ranges from the Tennessee River confluence upstream 19.5 miles [7].

- Sewee Creek. A substantial population was discovered in 1991 [2]. In ranges from the Tennessee River confluence upstream 6.0 miles [7].

- Paint Rock River. Small numbers of darters occur in the Paint Rock River [2, 8].

- Sequatchie River. The snail darter existed in very small numbers in the Sequatchie River, but may be extirpated [2, 8]

It was introduced or colonized seven rivers after being listed:

- Hiwassee River. A population of 710 fish was introduced in 1975 and 1976, growing to an estimated 2,500 fish by 1979 [2, 3]. The population ranges from the 35.8 mile point, upstream to the Bradley/Polk county line and from the Bradley County line to the confluence of the Ocoee River [7]. It was considered relatively abundant in 2004 [1].

- Holston River. A population of 531 fish was introduced in 1978 and 1979 from the Hiwassee and Little Tennessee Rivers [2]. It ranges from the Tennessee River confluence upstream 14.5 miles [7]. The population grew as habitat conditions improved [4] and was considered relatively abundant in 2004 [1]. But others report that the population has not done as well as the TVA expected [8].

- Little River. The Little River was colonized by the Holston River population in about 1979 [8]. It was relatively abundant in 2004 [5].

- French Broad River. A population was discovered in 1988 upstream from the confluence with the Holston River and is believed to have been colonized by the Holston River population [1]. It ranges from the Tennessee River confluence upstream 30.0 miles [7]. The population was relatively abundant in 2004 [1].

- Elk River. A population of 425 snail darters from the Little Tennessee River was introduced in 1980 [2], but was extirpated in the early 1980s [8].

- Nolichucky River. A population of 61 fish was introduced in 1975, but the program was discontinued after the discovery of sharphead darters in the river for fear of impacting the rare species [3]. It was extirpated in the early 1980s [8].

- A single snail darter was found in the Ocoee River in 1993 and has not been seen since [8]. It was probably a disperser from the Hiwassee River population [4].

Assuming that all natural populations existed in 1974 regardless of when they were discovered, the number of snail darter population has increased from six to nine since being placed on the endangered list in 1975. All of the increase is due to the creation of new populations or the recolonization of historic habitat by the created populations.

[1] USFWS. 2004. Bioloigcal Opinion on the Reservoir Operations Study (ROS) located in the Tennessee River Valley in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. U.S. fish and Wildlife Service, Febraury 9, 2004.
[2] USFWS. 1992. Snail Darter, Percina (Imostoma) tanasi. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered and Threatened Species of the Southeastern United States, www.fws.gov/endangered/i/e/sae15.html
[3] Fuller, P. 2004. Percina tanasi. U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL. <http://nas.er.usgs.g...?SpeciesID=827> Revision Date: 7/27/2004
[4] Shute, P.W. and D.A. Etnier. 1999. 1999 Report of Region 3 - North-Central. Southeastern Fishes Council , www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/organizations/sfc/regionalreports/R3NC1999.htm
[5] Godwin, J. 1999. Threatened and Endangered Fish of Alabama, http://www.forestry...._fish_of_al.htm
[6] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1983. Snail Darter Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 40+pp.
[7] The University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services. 1997. Go with the flow: Tennessee’s New Storm Water Multi-Sector Permits. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and
The University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services, Nashville, TN.
[8] Barclay, L. 2005. Personal communication with Lee Barclay, Supervisor, Tennessee Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, October 6, 2005.

How is this information incorrect?

#7 Guest_AC-Editor_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 07:59 AM

It could be that my AC synopsis of the CBD report on Percina tanasi misinterpreted and misconstrued the data.
If so, please accept my apologies and help me write a correction for the next available issue.

Chris Scharpf
Editor, American Currents

#8 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 09:26 AM

No Chris, it was not a misinterpretation that you made from the CBD report that I was commenting about. I had hope to make that clear in my original post that it was not directed in anyway towards you or NANFA. I am directly pointing the finger at CBD for doing a poor job and making unsupported statements.

Here are a few of my biggest problems, specifically single words or statements.

Population - One or a handful of individuals infrequently collected does not necessarily make a population and that is simply what has been found in most of the smaller streams over the past 25 years. The perfect example of how "population" is a term that should not be used so loosely is the Ocoee River. One indivudual has been found in over 15 years of yearly sampling at two fixed stations and none have been found since the original record. The CBD report flat out says it was likely a stray from the Hiwassee, which is a well accepted explination. So not a population then, right? That's eight "populations", not nine, if you take away the contradiction in their own statement.

Relatively abundant - My problem with this is more the (mis)use of the word in two of the rivers, specifically the Little and Holston. You're telling me a CPUE less than 0.1 and typically around 0.05-0.03 can be considered relatively abundant at the lowermost Holston River shoal when the adjacent river (the French Broad) has CPUE up to 1.0+ and 10 year average of 0.5? When you compare a total CPUE over multiple sites they aren't even close. There is minimal, comparable data about relative abundance in the Little River. What data there is, again lies on the shoulders of a few individuals with several years inbetween records and CPUE is low. Prescence and abundance by snorkeling has ccounted for a few individuals but nothing in stark contrast to low numbers found electrofishing.

Citation 5 has nothing to do with the records found in the Little River, TN. Personally I've never seen citation 7, or heard of it. The title, storm water permits, sounds like it has nothing really to do with endangered species, but regardless of that, its consistent use actually references distributional records that are from the 1983 Recovery Plan. Needless to say those distributional records are out of date as the abundance documented in the plan. If that report (citation 7) really does contain all that information, it is nothing more than a compilation of data found in a previous source, and getting back to my original post not the most up to date. Another specific example, the first "population" of snail darters below three dams references one or a few individuals observed by divers searching near the confluences of tributary streams to the Tennessee River right after the populations were discovered (1979-82). Subsequent efforts did not find snail darters and no efforts have been made since. Am I disagreeing with the possibility that adult snail darters can persist and permanently reside in the mainstem Tennessee River, no, but again that is out of date information making a statement about a "population" that cannot be made.

I have major problems with the assumption CBD made. It just cannot be made. Is it possible that snail darters existed in low numbers in other streams, yes, but there is simply no evidence to support that. Tributary streams such as South Chickamauga Creek, the Sequatchie River, Paint Rock River, etc, where snail darters were found after 1980 (after closer of Tellico Dam) were searched by TVA (an extensive search of the entire basin actually) and snail darters were not found. In 1974 there is only evidence for one natural population of snail darters, the one in the Little Tennessee River.

Again, report to probably come later. I am toying over whether or not I should post it, but it probably is up on the regional or TN USFWS website already or was going to be, and well anyone can request it from them technically. Plus the same report should be coming out in a manuscript in several months so I wouldn't want to give you all a teaser!


#9 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 10:01 AM

OK, I see what you're saying. I guess I was afraid that that was what you're saying. I've encountered some of the same questions in my flame chub survey. I've done it as a presence/absence scheme, where finding a single fish in two hours of seining counts as "present" but it's hard to describe that as a population. Apparently many "populations" of snail darters count the same way, "present" vs. "absent".

#10 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 02:41 PM

Exactly Bruce. Now if you went and took your results and said there are populations at every stream system you find one or two individuals people will think they are doing okay. Then if you say, 'well no they really aren't it's just one or two fish', they are going to respond 'well you said there were populations of them'. Yes rare fish can have low probability of detection and snail darter habitat isn't the easiest to electrofish, something I ran into quite a bit, but they were found in every stream I expected them or were recently found in. If we are going to start jumping from presence to population based on one record then there are really 10 for snail darters now :wink:

I'm not trying to criticize CBD for not incorporating the most recent and thourough distributional survey, which was mine. My report was not finalized until January and as I recall endangered specis day was in March so that report was likely prepared long before that. The examples I gave are all from data available from folks at TVA or FWS that I incorporated or have so it was available.

Man as I read it though more and more pops out.

Sewee Creek. A substantial population was discovered in 1991 [2]. In ranges from the Tennessee River confluence upstream 6.0 miles [7].

First off the citations aren't really correct. As a whole it should have been cited to the Recovery Plan. Secondly, snail darters were discovered in 1981 NOT 1991. They don't range 6.0 miles either. There is the remnants of a mill dam at RM 5.7 and none were ever found above it. "In ranges"? Interestingly, alot of snail darters were originally found in Sewee Creek, up to 75 in fact on one day, and Sewee Creek is one of the last places you would think snail darters would inhabit when you compare it to the other streams they are found in. It has a drainage area is tiny and it rarely exceeds 15 m in width (It is however just downstream of the Little Tennessee River 8) ) . However, subsequent surveys in 1982 and 1983 found only a few individuals on multiple occassions in Sewee Creek, a pattern seen in other tributary streams following the initial discovery. A population estimate in 1981 was made using a transect snorkeling technique and it yielded a density similar to the Little T pre dam and the Hiwassee transplant. Somewhere and somehow, a population estimate popped up that no one ever involved with snail darters wants to take credit for, that extrapolated that density even though only three small shoals exist in what is essentially only a couple hundred square meters of typical habitat.

I really should just upload the file but I'm affraid it maybe more than 8 megs, I'll check. I've practically written a quarter of it already .

#11 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 09:41 PM

Yeah, what was the CPUE at South Chick? Once I realized the niche, I got big spawning fish on the second seine toss lol. And we were just messin' around waiting on El Snorkelmeister. They must be everywhere, huh!? ;)

You should have the server space to post it. I'd be glad to put it on my website, if you think it would be worthwhile to post it. But I would encourage you most to not post it to the web, send it to Chris for an update, maybe with a letter to the Editor for a quick synopsis, and get that puppy PUBLISHED someplace peer reviewed. TWRA reports are great and all, but I've been discouraged from relying on Division of Fisheries publications. I'm sure others get the same thing from their advisors, which implies that these data are overlooked by fully fledged researchers too. I think it's crap, but it's what it is, and more often than not, it keeps crap out that doesn't belong.


#12 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 07:16 AM

I've essentially addressed all I wanted to and needed. My distributional manuscript is in review right now and it should be coming back to me soon. I think I will be going the response route like you and Chris mentioned. It just makes you wonder with the grammar and simple mistakes like the date did they even have an editor look through it. Like you said Todd, gray literature isn't exactly smiled upon and that is all they used, when there was even better gray literature out there.

#13 Guest_haruspicator_*

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 10:43 PM

Just a note regarding what I've experienced. I've found that a lot of stuff written by the Center is written by attorneys or interns, and there are usually lots of inaccuracies. A lot of times it is a blanket statement, especially with some species where little is known, and it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As a biologist working with some of the species they comment about, it is often frustrating. Some of their other stuff where they get a representative on the ground can be on the mark.


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