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Tuesday, January 26 • 1:20pm - 1:40pm
A Habitat Suitability Model For Possible Lake Sturgeon Acipenser Fulvescens Reintroduction In The Maumee River

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AUTHORS: Jessica Sherman*, University of Toledo; Jonathan Bossenbroek, University of Toledo; Todd Crail, University of Toledo; Christine Mayer, University of Toledo Lake Erie Center; James Boase, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Justin Chiotti, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and Christopher Vandergoot, Ohio Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Habitat suitability models inform species restoration by assessing if current habitat has degraded to the point that species reintroduction would be unfeasible. Lake sturgeon are a candidate for reintroduction in the Maumee River where they were historically abundant. Over-exploitation in Lake Erie and habitat alteration in the Maumee River extirpated lake sturgeon from this waterway. Lake sturgeon spawning has not been documented in the system in the last century and they were recorded being absent as early as 1885. While restoration efforts to rebuild lake sturgeon populations are underway throughout the Great Lakes basin, habitat in the Maumee River has undergone substantial alteration since lake sturgeon last spawned there. An assessment of habitat quality and quantity will inform future reintroduction efforts. We have constructed a spatially explicit habitat suitability model for spawning adult lake sturgeon for the lower Maumee River that includes habitat layers for substrate composition and water depth. A combination of survey methods including side scan sonar, visual observation, and benthic grabs were used to assess substrate composition. Habitat characteristics were mapped as a spatially explicit layer in ArcGIS and then combined to provide an overall assessment of habitat suitability and connectivity. Habitat suitability was delineated as good or moderate-good for optimal habitats, moderate, or moderate-poor or poor for suboptimal habitats. Model results suggest that more than 50% of the Maumee River is classified as good or moderate-good for spawning adults based on these two characteristics. Future model elaboration will include water velocity, water quality characteristics, habitat size and connectivity and will also be constructed for age-0 lake sturgeon. These models will aid in the development of a restoration plan for reintroduction of lake sturgeon into the Maumee River by providing an estimate of the amount of habitat available for critical life-history stages.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 1:20pm - 1:40pm EST
Emerald B