HAMP Nears Completion of its First Field Season
with New Study Design
BY CLAYTON RIDENOUR, COLUMBIA FWCO
The Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) is partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers in a novel approach to studying the early life history of sturgeon in the lower Missouri River. The Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (HAMP) began in 2005 collecting data about the fish community of lower Missouri River in relation to habitat restoration efforts on a localized scale with a central focus of monitoring pallid sturgeon.
Early fisheries data from these collection efforts were characterized by high variability so interpretation of the dataset was therefore a limiting factor to the program’s success. The fundamental complexity of pallid sturgeon ecology is a significant challenge for researchers and mangers to overcome while determining appropriate, or best, actions to promote species recovery. Sturgeon are long lived fishes that migrate great distances as adults and larvae to complete their life cycle. Reproductively mature adults may spawn only every three years, and offspring may only survive if a certain suite of environmental flow conditions and habitat are available.
This spring the Columbia FWCO began a new version of the HAMP that specifically targets young sturgeon, during their early life stage from post hatch larvae (approximately 12 millimeters long) through the end of the first growing season (approximately 110 millimeters long). The new sampling strategy differs from the 2005 model chiefly in spatial scope; the new HAMP has broadened its sampling scale from a localized river bend sampling unit to a river reach sampling unit that includes many consecutive river bends. This larger spatial scope provides a sampling platform that is more aligned with movement and drifting behavior of young sturgeon, and helps provide biologists with an ecosystem perspective that may be more relevant to early life stage sturgeons. Another primary difference with the new HAMP is the dedicated focus from biologists on studying early life stage sturgeon.
From June through September, Columbia FWCO crews have collected over 1,200 young of year sturgeon, most of which were shorter than the width of a nickel; to give context, a similar study that was recently completed on lower Missouri River collected fewer than 300 young of year sturgeon over two field seasons. The end of October will signal the completion of the first field season for HAMP, the second field season is scheduled to begin in May, 2015.