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Strategic Habitat and River Reach Units for Aquatic Species of Conservation Concern in Alabama

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation, and Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) are focusing conservation activities for managing, recovering,   and restoring populations of rare and/or protected fishes, mussels, snails, and crayfishes in targeted watersheds and river segments in Alabama.  The 51 Strategic Habitat Units (SHUs) and Strategic River Reach Units (SRRUs) include a substantial part of Alabama’s remaining high-quality water courses, and reflect the variety of aquatic habitats occupied by these species historically and presently.  SHUs and SRRUs facilitate the coordination of watershed management and restoration efforts as well as to focus funding to address habitat and water-quality issues threatening these areas. 

The SHU concept was first applied in the North River.  A watershed assessment of North River SHU was conducted by GSA and other members of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership.  The assessment included land cover analysis of nonpoint source pollution threats, stream habitat surveys, & road/stream crossing surveys. This assessment provided a framework for the creation of the North River Watershed Management Plan, which received 319 funding to hire a watershed coordinator and begin restoration work.  The North River SHU is currently being used as a model for other SHU assessments.



Cave Shrimp & Tuscumbia Darter monitoring at Redstone Arsenal

GSA, in cooperation with the Cultural and Natural Resources Directorate of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal in Madison County (RSA), has conducted biological and water quality monitoring studies on and around RSA since 1990.  The Alabama cave shrimp, Palaemonias alabamae, a federally listed endangered species, occurs in Bobcat Cave and GSA has monitored that population and water quality aspects of the cave since 1990, with nearby Matthews Cave serving as a control.  Monitoring the cave shrimp population includes monthly visits to the cave recording numbers of individuals observed, numbers of gravid individuals, and other noteworthy life history observations. 

The Tuscumbia darter, Etheostoma tuscumbia, is known to occur in Williams Spring on RSA and is a species of High Conservation Priority in Alabama. GSA has monitored that population since 1999, employing a standardized sampling protocol, measurement of basic physical water quality parameters, and measurement of discharge during each site visit.  Other projects conducted by the Ecosystems Program on and near RSA have focused on the crayfish and mollusk faunas.  Please see Open File Report 1115 for a comprehensive record of GSA’s sampling efforts at Bobcat Cave from 1990- 2011.





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