A simple, inexpensive apparatus (embryo incubation unit [EIU]) was developed and used to assess the relationship between sediment cover (Kootenai River sediments, 97% by weight in the 0.83-mm- to 1.0-mm-diameter range) and survival of white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus embryos in the laboratory. An apparatus-testing trial assessed the effects of two sediment depths (5 and 20 mm), three EIU ventilation hole sizes (4.8, 6.8, and 9.5 mm) providing three levels of intrasediment flow, and EIU location (upstream or downstream in laboratory troughs) on embryo survival at two above-substrate flow velocities (0.05 and 0.15 m/s). A second trial assessed the effects of sediment cover duration (5-mm sediment cover for 4, 7, 9, 11, or 14 d, with a ventilation hole size of 9.5 mm and a flow velocity of 0.17 m/s) on mean embryo survival and larval length and weight. In the apparatus-testing trial, embryo survival was reduced (P < 0.0001) to 0-5% under sediment covers of either 5 or 20 mm in both the higher-flow and lower-flow troughs; survival in control EIUs without sediments exceeded 80%. Survival was not significantly affected by ventilation hole size but was weakly affected by EIU location. In the second trial, embryo survival was negatively correlated (P = 0.001) with increasing duration of sediment cover and was significantly higher for embryos covered for 4 d (50% survival) or 7 d (30% survival) than for those covered for 9, 11, or 14 d (15-20% survival). Sediment cover also delayed hatch timing (P < 0.0001) and decreased mean larval length (P < 0.0001). Our results suggest that sediment cover may be an important early life stage mortality factor in rivers where white sturgeon spawn over fine-sediment substrates. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2006.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of sediment cover on survival and development of white sturgeon embryos