A well-established strategic partnership is actively involved in captive propagation and habitat restoration efforts for the Barrens topminnow. Partners include the Service’s Ecological Services, Fisheries, and Refuges programs, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Air Force, the Nature Conservancy, and Conservation Fisheries, Inc. When this partnership began in 1997, the range of the Barrens topminnow had decreased to only two known populations in the wild. It was necessary to focus the efforts and the partners' individual programs on the species' conservation challenges and the needs iof the landowners who could offer restoration opportunities. To date, habitat protection and restoration activities have occurred on 32 sites, 24 of which have been stocked with Barrens topminnows. Annual monitoring of the status of reproduction and recruitment of these reintroduced populations by the Service and its partners is a critical element in the conservation strategy. Tennessee Technological University and the U.S. Geological Survey also are researching the species' biology and its interactions with the Western mosquitofish.
The potential for drought and competition from the non-native Western mosquitofish are recurring challenges for efforts in restoring populations in the Barrens Region of the Eastern Highland Rim in Tennessee. Last year, water levels at two sites were not sufficient to sustain reproduction or further reintroduction efforts. None of the agencies involved in this partnership have an adequate inventory of groundwater and surface water usage across a broad spectrum of agricultural, commercial, and industrial operations in the region. A better understanding of the interactions between groundwater reservoirs and aquifers, surface waters, and water quality in the Barrens region is needed. In order to reach the recovery goal of five self-sustaining populations in the Caney Fork River, Duck River, and Elk River watersheds, effective modeling of groundwater and surface water interactions and usage in this region also will be needed to predict drought susceptible areas and potential water quality impairments. The partnership is building its internal and external capacities to address these additional needs. If successful, efforts with the Barrens topminnow also will provide tangible conservation benefits to other at-risk species, such as the Barrens darter, flame chub, Barrens toesplitter, and Cumberland pigtoe.
Submitted by Steve Alexander, Brad Bingham, and Geoff Call, Cookeville, TN, ES Field Office