Federally endangered Lost River sucker Deltistes luxatus and shortnose sucker Chasmistes brevirostris were once abundant throughout their range but populations have declined; they have been extirpated from several lakes, and may no longer reproduce in others. Poor recruitment into the adult spawning populations is one of several reasons cited for the decline and lack of recovery of these species, and may be the consequence of high mortality during juvenile life stages. High larval and juvenile sucker mortality may be exacerbated by an insufficient quantity of suitable rearing habitat. Within Upper Klamath Lake, a lack of marshes also may allow larval suckers to be swept from suitable rearing areas downstream into the seasonally anoxic waters of the Keno Reservoir.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) flooded about 3,600 acres to the north of the Williamson River mouth (Tulana Unit) in October 2007, and about 1,400 acres to the south and east of the Williamson River mouth (Goose Bay Unit) a year later, to retain larval suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, create nursery habitat for suckers, and improve water quality. In collaboration with TNC, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Oregon State University, we began a long-term collaborative research and monitoring program in 2008 to assess the effects of the Williamson River Delta restoration on the early life-history stages of Lost River and shortnose suckers. Our approach includes two equally important aspects. One component is to describe habitat use and colonization processes by larval and juvenile suckers and non-sucker fish species. The second is to evaluate the effects of the restored habitat on the health and condition of juvenile suckers. This report contains a summary of the first year of data collected as a part of this monitoring effort.