Impacts of tidal road-stream crossings on aquatic organism passage

Cooperator Science Series 131-2018
By: , and 



ivers and streams are highly vulnerable to fragmentation from roads due to their prevalence in the landscape. Road-stream crossings are far more numerous than other anthropogenic barriers such as dams; these crossing structures (culverts, bridges, fords, and tide gates) have been demonstrated to impede the passage of aquatic organisms. However, road-stream crossings vary widely in the extent to which they serve as a barrier. It is important to identify barrier severity to facilitate prioritization of restoration activities, since proactively addressing all structures is not feasible. In 2015 the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Collaborative (LCC) funded a project managed by the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Cooperative (NAACC) to develop a unified protocol for assessing aquatic road-stream crossings focusing on aquatic connectivity. The NAACC relied on rapid field-based assessments, which have been shown to be a useful tool for gathering information necessary for prioritization. However, the rapid assessment protocol developed from the NAACC initiative is not applicable to tidal crossings as it does not address two-directional flow, daily water depth fluctuations, or many of the species likely present in coastal habitats.

The goal of this report is to provide the background necessary to create guidelines and rapid assessment tools for assessing risk posed to aquatic organism passage at tidal crossings. To accomplish these goals, this report identifies species present in tidally influenced coastal wetlands, the unique traits they may display that puts them at risk for detrimental impact from impeded passage, and passage threats unique to tidal crossings that are not addressed by protocols designed for non-tidal systems. Species lists were compiled through literature reviews and discussions with regional researchers and managers familiar with coastal ecosystems or fish passage concerns. Life history traits, environmental sensitivities, and movement patterns for each species were compiled to build a database that can be queried to identify species that are highly vulnerable to impeded passage at tidal crossings (Available at: These risk factors for species, combined with passage threats associated with specific crossing characteristics are discussed in this report. The species list is thorough enough to provide a baseline summary of the types of threats experienced by aquatic organisms at tidal road-stream crossings, but it is not exhaustive. Unique ecosystems, species assemblages, management goals, and prioritization models may require different approaches and solutions. Thus, care must be taken to ensure that assessment tools are appropriate to a project’s target species, habitats, and scale.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Impacts of tidal road-stream crossings on aquatic organism passage
Series title Cooperator Science Series
Series number 131-2018
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description ii, 57 p.
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