Restoration and maintenance of passage for aquatic organisms at road-stream crossings represents a major management priority, involving an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars (for example, U.S. Government Accounting Office, 2001). In recent years, passage at hundreds of crossings has been restored, primarily by replacing barrier road culverts with bridges or stream simulation culverts designed to pass all species and all life stages of aquatic life and simulate natural hydro-geomorphic processes (U.S. Forest Service, 2008). The current situation has motivated two general questions: 1. Are current design standards for stream simulation culverts adequately re-establishing passage for aquatic biota? and 2. How do we monitor and evaluate effectiveness of passage restoration? To address the latter question, a national workshop was held in March 2010, in Portland, Oregon. The workshop included experts on aquatic organism passage from across the nation (see table of participants, APPENDIX) who addressed four classes of methods for monitoring effectiveness of aquatic organism passage—individual movement, occupancy, demography, and genetics. This report has been written, in part, for field biologists who will be undertaking and evaluating the effectiveness of aquatic organism passage restoration projects at road-stream crossings. The report outlines basic methods for evaluating road-stream crossing passage impairment and restoration and discusses under what circumstances and conditions each method will be useful; what questions each method can potentially answer; how to design and implement an evaluation study; and points out the fundamental reality that most evaluation projects will require special funding and partnerships among researchers and resource managers. The report is organized into the following sections, which can be read independently: 1. Historical context: In this section, we provide a brief history of events leading up to the present situation involving aquatic organism passage as a useful context for the issues covered herein. 2. Importance of connectivity for aquatic organisms: In this section, we provide background information regarding the movement characteristics of aquatic organisms and their vulnerability to passage impairment, and the importance of connectivity for a broad diversity of aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates. This section should be useful for practitioners in selecting what species to monitor in relation to aquatic organism passage. 3. Methods for evaluating aquatic organism passage: In this section, we present a range of perspectives on alternatives for assessing and monitoring aquatic organism passage impairment and the effectiveness of passage restoration actions, including the following methods: Individual Movement, Occupancy Models, Abundance (Demography), and Molecular Genetic Markers. 4. Relevance, strengths, and limitations of the four methods: In this section, we discuss the utility of each of the methods as a tool for assessing and quantifying passage impairment and restoration effectiveness. 5. Guidelines for selecting a method: In this section, we review some fundamental criteria and guidelines to consider when selecting a method for monitoring in the context of answering three important questions that should be addressed when developing a plan for evaluating aquatic organism passage. 6. Study and monitoring design considerations: In this section, we discuss four key design elements that need to be considered when developing a monitoring design for assessing passage impairment and restoration. The basic objectives of the report are to: 1. Review the movement characteristics of five groups of aquatic organisms that inhabit streams and to assess their general vulnerability to passage impairment at road-stream crossings; 2. Review four methods for monitoring aquatic organism passage impairment and the effectiveness of actions to restore passage at road-stream crossing structures; 3. Assess the relevance, strengths, and limitations of each method as a monitoring tool; 4. Identify and discuss guidelines that will be useful for selecting a monitoring method; and 5. Discuss what we have identified as the four key elements that need to be considered when developing a monitoring design for assessing passage impairment and restoration at road-stream crossings.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Aquatic organism passage at road-stream crossings—synthesis and guidelines for effectiveness monitoring