Use of navigation channels by Lake Sturgeon: Does channelization increase vulnerability of fish to ship strikes?

PLoS ONE
By: , and 

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Abstract

Channelization for navigation and flood control has altered the hydrology and bathymetry of many large rivers with unknown consequences for fish species that undergo riverine migrations. In this study, we investigated whether altered flow distributions and bathymetry associated with channelization attracted migrating Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) into commercial navigation channels, potentially increasing their exposure to ship strikes. To address this question, we quantified and compared Lake Sturgeon selection for navigation channels vs. alternative pathways in two multi-channel rivers differentially affected by channelization, but free of barriers to sturgeon movement. Acoustic telemetry was used to quantify Lake Sturgeon movements. Under the assumption that Lake Sturgeon navigate by following primary flow paths, acoustic-tagged Lake Sturgeon in the more-channelized lower Detroit River were expected to choose navigation channels over alternative pathways and to exhibit greater selection for navigation channels than conspecifics in the less-channelized lower St. Clair River. Consistent with these predictions, acoustic-tagged Lake Sturgeon in the more-channelized lower Detroit River selected the higher-flow and deeper navigation channels over alternative migration pathways, whereas in the less-channelized lower St. Clair River, individuals primarily used pathways alternative to navigation channels. Lake Sturgeon selection for navigation channels as migratory pathways also was significantly higher in the more-channelized lower Detroit River than in the less-channelized lower St. Clair River. We speculated that use of navigation channels over alternative pathways would increase the spatial overlap of commercial vessels and migrating Lake Sturgeon, potentially enhancing their vulnerability to ship strikes. Results of our study thus demonstrated an association between channelization and the path use of migrating Lake Sturgeon that could prove important for predicting sturgeon-vessel interactions in navigable rivers as well as for understanding how fish interact with their habitat in landscapes altered by human activity.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Use of navigation channels by Lake Sturgeon: Does channelization increase vulnerability of fish to ship strikes?
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0179791
Volume 12
Issue 7
Year Published 2017
Language English
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description e0179791: 18 p.
Country Canada, United States
State Michigan, Ontario