Fiscal Year 2005
Section 6 Threatened and Endangered Species Projects for FY05
October 1, 2004 – September 30, 2005
Alabama Endangered Bats Cave Survey (Project 12):
The gray bat (Myotis grisescens) and the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) are currently listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since their listings, concerted effort has been made to assess the status of these species by an annual inventory of selected bat caves in Alabama and throughout parts of their respective ranges. Emergence estimates were for all species of bats observed exiting. Most Alabama caves having substantial numbers (>100) of colonial bats, are believed to contain gray bats - except for the winter hibernating population of Indiana bats in Sauta Cave, and in Sanders Cave where the southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius), is most likely the species in greatest number.
Keith Hudson, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
Tennessee River Mollusk Recovery (Project 59):
The mollusk fauna in tailwaters of Wilson Dam on Tennessee River has been a focus of recovery efforts for over ten years. In 2001 a Nonessential Experimental Population (NEP) was designated for sixteen freshwater mussel species (Table 1) and Athearnia anthonyi
) in Wilson Dam tailwaters. The NEP was designated for a 12 mile reach of the Tennessee River (from Wilson Dam downstream to the lower end of Sevenmile Island). In a joint effort with Don Hubbs, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, initial reintroductions of three mussel species were carried out during the summer of 2003. These were comprised of 80 individuals of Lemiox rimosus
(Birdwing Pearlymussel) and 80 Epioblasma capsaeformis
(Oyster Mussel) from Duck River, Tennessee, and 80 Dromus dromas
(Dromedary Pearlymussel) from Clinch River, Tennessee. Since L. rimosus
and E. capsaeformis
are sexually dimorphic, the pilot population had a 1:1 sex ratio. The initial mussel reintroductions were to serve as a pilot project to determine if habitat conditions are favorable for more large-scale introductions of these species. If warranted, further reintroductions will be carried out using either transplanted individuals or juveniles reared in captivity. The pilot reintroductions are located in Buck Island Chute (TRM 249) on the left descending side of Sevenmile Island.
Jeff Garner, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) Movement in the Alabama River, 2001-2005 (Project 80):
Status Survey for the Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) at Selected Sites in the Mobile Basin Drainage of Alabama (Project 92):
A total of 323 paddlefish
have been anchor tagged since the study began in 2001. Ultrasonic tags were implanted in 103 anchor-tagged fish. Ninety-two sonic fish have been detected 460 times, from 1 to 677 days following release. One paddlefish released in 2004 moved upstream through Millers Ferry lock chamber and was detected in a 10 to 12 mile-long section of Dannelly Reservoir in 2004-05. Sixty-two sonic fish resided in one of four areas within Claiborne Reservoir. Fourteen resided in an area that extended from Claiborne tailwater downstream in the lower Alabama River to Marshall’s Bluff. Several fish in both groups exhibited spawning site fidelity by returning to Millers Ferry tailwater one year after release. Some fish returned to the same habitat they occupied the previous year while others moved further downstream to the Tensaw River. Most of the 15 fish found in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta resided in the Tensaw River and several of its major tributaries.
M. F. "Scott" Mettee, Geological Survey of Alabama. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been petitioned to list the turtle, formerly a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species of Concern (former Category 2 Candidate), as threatened, but this action has yet to be taken. The alligator snapping turtle is listed as a species of concern in the Mobile Basin Aquatic Ecosystem Recovery Plan, but information is lacking on its status within the drainage basin. Survey work conducted in the Mobile Basin in Alabama will provide important information regarding the need for federally listing of this species, or implementing other conservation measures through watershed plans at the state level.
Jim Godwin, Alabama Natural Heritage Program.
Occurrence, Landscape, and Habitat Relationships of Cerulean Warbler in Northern Alabama (Project 93):
The Cerulean Warbler is currently experiencing one of the most precipitous population declines of any Neotropical migratory bird species in North America. This decrease has been attributed to a number of factors, including the loss and fragmentation of breeding, migratory, and wintering habitats and shortened rotation periods in managed forests. Alabama represents the southern most extension of the Cerulean Warbler’s breeding range, where prior to the mid 1970s they were considered common and even numerous in the northern half of the state. Today, Cerulean Warblers are represented by only a fraction of that historic prosperity and were recently classified as a Priority One species (Highest Conservation Concern) during the Second Alabama Nongame Wildlife Symposium in 2002. This trend has prompted researchers at Alabama A&M University to begin studying the current status of the state’s three remaining Cerulean Warbler populations: one in Bankhead National Forest (BNF) and two in Jackson County, Alabama.
Yong Wang, Alabama A&M University.
Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Implementation (Project 94):
Choccolocco Upland Initiative: Improvement of the Fire-Dependent Montane Longleaf Pine Community for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and other Priority Species (Project 95):
The Alabama State-wide Red-cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Agreement was developed to address the needs of non-federal landowners and the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). Non-federal landowners who have RCWs residing on their property are prohibited by the Endangered Species Act from any management activities that harm the birds or degrade their habitat. Landowners who wish to manage their lands in such a manner that benefits RCWs risk having more of them come to live there and as a result, incurring more restrictions on land use. Consequently, the law provides disincentives to manage for suitable habitat, which is mature, open longleaf pine forests. The Safe Harbor Agreement provides assurances to the landowner that if additional RCWs come to live on his property as a result of his beneficial management practices then he will not incur additional restrictions due to these additional groups of birds.
Jan Garrett, The Nature Conservancy.
The red-cockaded woodpecker, a keystone species of mature, open pine woodlands has decreased considerably from historic levels that coincide with the loss of longleaf pine woodlands. The RCW’s located on the Shoal Creek Ranger District are one of the last remaining populations of the Southern Appalachian Ecosystem and have increased from four to eleven active clusters over the past three years. This population has been identified as extremely important to the recovery of the species due to its relative immunity from the impacts of hurricanes, which could potentially devastate populations located in the Coastal Plain.
Jeff Gardner, U. S. Forestry Service.
Cahaba River Mollusk Survey (Project 96):
is home to a diverse assemblage of freshwater mussels and snails, including a considerable number of snails endemic to the drainage. The last systematic snail survey of Cahaba River was carried out in 1992 (Bogan and Pierson, 1993) and the last mussel survey was in 1994 (McGregor et al
., 2000). Included in the Cahaba fauna are three federally protected snails, Lioplax cyclostomaformis
(Cylindrical Lioplax), Lepyrium showalteri
(Flat Pebblesnail) and Leptoxis ampla
(Round Rocksnail). The former two species are federally listed as endangered and the latter species is listed as threatened. Nine mussels that have been reported from Cahaba River historically are currently federally protected. However, only three Hamiota
(Fine-rayed Pocketbook. threatened), Pleurobema decisum
(Southern Clubshell, endangered) and Ptychobranchus foremanianus
(Rayed Kidneyshell, endangered) (recently found to be distinguishable from Ptychobranchus greenii
) have been reported from Cahaba River during or later than the 1990's (McGregor et al
., 2000; J.T. Garner, personal observation). An additional protected species, Hamiota perovalis
(Orangenacre Mucket, threatened) may also be part of the Cahaba fauna, but taxonomic questions regarding its relationship with H. altilis
in the Cahaba River remain. The current survey was carried out in conjunction with Paul Johnson (former with the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute and curenty with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division) and Stuart McGregor (Geological Survey of Alabama). The primary survey report will be submitted by Paul Johnson and will include more detailed analyses and distributional information. This report includes only contributions of Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel to the project and gives a brief overview of results.
Jeff Garner, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Results of Qualitative Sampling for Protected Mussel Species at Selected Stations in the Cahaba River System, Alabama, 2005 (Project 97):
Freshwater mussel (Bivalvia: Unionidae) populations were evaluated at 40 stations in the Cahaba River system from May through September, 2005. About 84.5 man hours were expended using visual searches, usually with mask and snorkel, and tactile searches. A total of 29 species and 1,031 mussels were collected, including 25 species found live or fresh dead and 4 species represented by weathered dead or relic shells only. No mussels were found at 26 stations. Three federally listed endangered or threatened species were encountered live, including the finelined pocketbook, Hamiota altilis,
ovate clubshell, Pleurobema perovatum,
and triangular kidneyshell, Ptychobranchus greenii
. Another endangered species, the southern clubshell, Pleurobema decisum
, was represented by relic material at a single main channel station. The elephantear, Elliptio crassidens
, accounted for 42.2 percent of the total collected live or fresh dead, followed by the southern pigtoe, Fusconaia cerina
, with 13.7 percent, the Alabama orb, Quadrula asperata
, with 11.9 percent, and the bleufer, Potamilus purpuratus
, with 10.6 percent. Twenty one species accounted for less than 1 percent each. The ovate clubshell was not reported from the Cahaba River system from the early 1930s until one specimen was collected from Oakmulgee Creek in 2004. Another live individual was collected from the same vicinity during the present effort and one also from the main channel Cahaba River near Centreville. The triangular kidneyshell was reported from near Booth’s Ford downstream to the vicinity of the old Marvel Slab during 2004. During this study its range was extended downstream to the vicinity of Piper Bridge. The finelined pocketbook has recently been reported from the headwaters of the Little Cahaba River and the main channel Cahaba near Marvel Slab. During this study its range in the Little Cahaba was extended downstream to the vicinity of Cahaba Valley Church, and in the main channel Cahaba it was found downstream of Centreville, a new downstream record for the system.
Stuart McGregor, Geological Survey of Alabama.
An Analysis of Sedimentation loading rates in Cedar Creek, Franklin County, Alabama, 2005-06 (Project 99):
Survey of the Elk River System in Alabama for Fish Species of Moderate to Highest Conservation Concern, 2004-05 (Project 100):
In 2004-05, 85 fish samples were collected at 52 stations in the Elk River system to determine the present distribution and abundance of 13 species of moderate to highest conservation concern in Alabama. Sampling produced 95 species ncluding 12 of 13 species of conservation concern historically known to occur in the system. New tributary records were found for five of these species including a population of the boulder darter which was found in Shoal Creek upstream of the embayment of Wheeler Reservoir. New tributary records were also found for the streamline chub
, the highlands stonecat, the skygazing minnow, and the highland shiner. This report also documents the invasion of the Elk River system by the Mississippi silverside.
Tom Shephard, Geological Survey of Alabama.
A Survey of Alabama’s Coastal Rivers and Streams for Fishes of Conservation Concern, 2004-05 (Project 101):
The Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) began work in Alabama’s coastal streams in the early 1980s. Mettee and others (1983) conducted biological monitoring studies in streams draining the Gilbertown, Citronelle, and Pollard oil fields in south Alabama, while O’Neil and others (1984) reported results of fish biomonitoring efforts in streams around the Citronelle oil field. The Citronelle oil field is drained by tributaries of the Escatawpa and Mobile Rivers, while the Pollard field is drained by tributaries to Little Escambia and Big Escambia Creeks. Mettee and others (1993) compiled data in published studies, collection records from southeastern museums, and new collection data into an unpublished summary list of fishes of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, tributaries to Mobile Bay, and Perdido River system. This study reports sampling results of years one and two of a three-year survey of fishes in selected Alabama coastal river systems focusing, in part, on species recognized as highest or high conservation concern by Mirarchi and others (2004) and on habitats and stream reaches that have not been adequately sampled in past surveys.
Ecology and Life History of the Vermilion Darter (Etheostoma chermocki) (Project 103):
The endangered Vermilion Darter (Etheostoma chermocki) is endemic to the Black Warrior River system, Mobile Basin, Alabama. Collections of specimens obtained from October 1969 to January 2000 were evaluated to determine life history characteristics. Standard length was significantly correlated with body mass, gonad mass, and clutch size. Sex ratio (2:1) was in favor of females. Length frequency distribution and enumeration of otolith annuli revealed four different age classes (0 to 3). Vermilion Darters matured at the end of the first year of life. Gonadosomatic index indicated reproduction occurred from March to June. Mean clutch size was 65 oocytes per female, and mean oocyte diameter was 1.14 mm. The Vermilion Darter is a generalist benthic invertivore, predominantly consuming larval chironomids, tipulids, and hydropsychids. Diet breadth was greatest during warmer months and least during colder months.
Bernard Kuhajda, University of Alabama.
Geological Survey of Alabama.A short stream reach of Bear Creek harbors a diverse population of freshwater mussels, which is a rare occurrence in post-impoundment Tennessee River tributaries. Results of this study and a previous study in Bear Creek (McGregor and Cook, 2004) indicate that significant and, in some cases, excessive sedimentation is occurring in the Bear Creek system, primarily in the Bear Creek floodway, threatening mussel populations in lower Bear Creek. Most stations evaluated during these studies showed potential for continued habitat degradation due to sedimentation. However, the reach of Bear Creek from Red Bay, Alabama, to Tishomingo County, Mississippi, County Road 86, including the floodway, consistently yielded very high sediment loading rates, which are of most concern to mussel habitat. The floodway stations (BC1 and BC2) consistently had (a) the largest volume of gravel bed material mobilized, (b) the highest mean streamflow velocity, (c) the largest suspended sediment load in total weight and in mass per unit area, and (d) the largest bedload in total weight and in mass per unit area. The gravel bed material moving through the floodway is composed of materials eroded from ridges in the middle and downstream reaches of the watershed (Tuscaloosa Group) and from the headwaters (Pottsville Formation). This suggests that land disturbance activities in those areas introduce a large volume of sediment that enters tributaries and is transported to Bear Creek and the floodway, and eventually to the Tennessee River.
Stuart McGregor, Geological Survey of Alabama.