Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Virginia Project

Assessment of the dynamics and biotic impacts of fine sediment to assist conservation of stream fishes in the Dan and Roanoke river basins

April 2018 - November 2020


Participating Agencies

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Adverse effects of excess fine sediment on the water quality and ecosystem services provided by streams are pervasive. Analytical methods to identify a) which species are sensitive to silt, b) key sources and fates of silt, c) effects of silt-loading on benthic habitat condition (BHC), and d) effects of BHC on distribution and abundance of silt-sensitive fishes would help managers prioritize actions to best enhance recovery of silt-sensitive fishes. This project integrates spatially explicit analyses of relations among a) sediment sources and fates across upland, riparian, and instream components of watersheds, b) BHC, and c) the distribution/abundance of benthic stream fishes. This project will help managers decide where, how much, and what kinds of riparian and floodplain management are most likely to protect and enhance recovery of silt-sensitive fishes. The project is a collaboration among USGS, Plymouth State University, and Virginia Tech, including scientists with expertise in spatial analysis, fish ecology, and sediment dynamics.
1) quantify sediment erosion, transport, and deposition potential,
2) evaluate the ability of analytical alternatives to predict benthic habitat condition (BHC),
3) test a traits-based model for predicting species’ silt sensitivity,
4) quantify species occupancy/density and BHC,
5) test relationships among species occupancy/density, BHC, and a suite of sediment metrics.