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Native Fish, Science and Management in the Colorado River Ecosystem Where Are We? Barbara E. Ralston Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, USGS.

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Presentation on theme: "Native Fish, Science and Management in the Colorado River Ecosystem Where Are We? Barbara E. Ralston Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, USGS."— Presentation transcript:

1 Native Fish, Science and Management in the Colorado River Ecosystem Where Are We? Barbara E. Ralston Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, USGS

2 The Colorado River Ecosystem is a mix of legal constraints associated with water delivery and resource protection that has most recently been overlaid by the adaptive management process. How do regulatory policies influence experimentation and experimental design in the CRE? What data are collected as a result? What are the outcomes as they apply to the Adaptive Management Program and the learning process?

3 Dams along Colorado River Drainage Water Regulation (delivery, storage and operations) Compact: 1922,1928, 1968, 2001 Colorado River Storage Projects: 1956

4 Native Fish of Colorado River Ecosystem High endemism Eight species were found originally. Four remain. Endangered species status for humpback chub and razorback sucker. Drawings by M. Filbert

5 Environmental Regulation on the Colorado River Ecosystem Ecological regulation (Endangered 1967, ESA 1978, Biological opinion 1994). Resource/operational regulation (Interim Flows 1991, GCPA 1992, Record of Decision 1996, Surplus Water Criteria 2001)

6 Elements of Biological Opinion Implementation of studies to determine impacts of flows on listed and native fish fauna. –A program of experimental flows including high steady spring and low steady summer and fall flows in low water years. –Implement a selective withdrawal program for Lake Powell waters and determine feasibility. –Determine responses of fish to various temperature regimes and river flows necessary to identify actions that enhance their recovery. –Coupled high flows (BHBF) with summer steady flows.

7 Elements of Biological Opinion Maintain or enhance sediment resources that provide habitat to maintain integrity of grand canyon ecosystem. –Beach habitat building flows and maintenance flows. Evaluated within adaptive management framework.

8 Adaptive Management Feedback Loop Policy is a process viewed as an informing system (Walters and Holling 1990, Dover 1996) Conceptual Model of System Resource Policy Hypothesis testing/experimentation Data Collection & environmental response

9 Adaptive Management Elements Requires (Dover 1996): –A purposeful approach to policy. –Longevity and persistence in efforts. –Integration and coordination across policies, sectors and disciplines. –Wider participation.

10 Purposeful Approach to Policy How Regulatory Policies Influence Experimentation and Approaches? Proposed operational experiments primarily address jeopardy opinion for endangered fish, while still meeting water delivery requirements and evaluating within scope of GCPA. –Low steady flows. –Temperature control device. –Beach habitat building flows. –Habitat Maintenance flows Dependent on upper basin hydrology, reservoir levels and equalization schedules between Lakes Powell and Mead.

11 Regulatory Policies and Experimentation Water Regulatory Effects –Year by year planning. Single year capabilities for experimentation. –Difficult to couple extremes in flow. Low likelihood of combining BHBF with LSF. –Assumes science can meet experimental/managerial expectations regarding ecosystem response approach.

12 Regulatory Policies and Experimentation Water Regulatory Effects & Experimental Design Meeting RPA’s based on water availability may drive AM approach that is objective driven rather than hypothesis driven. Hypotheses tested may not be the most critical ones needed to be tested to understand the system.

13 Regulatory Policies and Experimentation Regulatory Effects & Experimental Design Does not necessarily approach issues in a ecosystem context and system response. Short-term needs of managers to show responsiveness to environmental regulations may influence what is tested. Hydrology may dictate a particular experiment, but ability of science programs to adequately evaluate may not be available (Walters et. Al. 2000).

14 Longevity and Persistence in Efforts What Data Are Collected? Consequences of short-term policy actions. –Science will address questions that are answerable in short term. –Variables that respond in a short time frame may be emphasized (e.g., physical variables). –Availability of research personnel on short notice will affect what is collected.

15 Longevity and Persistence in Efforts Single year vs. multi years design. –Dependent on question being asked and response time of resource. Treatment effects may not be evident for several years after treatment due to capabilities to measure response relative to organism or variable. –Recognition that biological responses are often not immediate. If ESA is underlying policy then anticipate multi-year policy actions. –Willingness of public to maintain a policy for the duration of the experiment (non-use values and group values).

16 Time since Experiment vs. no treatment N fish Age at reproduction Successful for YOY But cannot distinguish between large year class vs. treatment effects. Estimates of fish at time after experiment may show no effect. Cannot distinguish from natural variation under normal operations. Single Year Treatments and Data Interpretation.

17 Time since Experiment vs. no treatment Cubic meters Time of survey No additional sand storage. Can interpret as no loss to system because response wasn’t measured soon enough. Single Year Treatments and Data Interpretation.

18 Longevity and Persistence in Efforts Single year vs. multi years design. –Dependent on question being asked and response time of resource. Treatment effects may not be evident for several years after treatment due to capabilities to measure response relative to organism. –Recognition that biological responses are often not immediate. If ESA is underlying policy then anticipate multi-year policy actions. –Willingness of public to maintain a policy for the duration of the experiment (non-use values and group values).

19 Longevity and Persistence in Efforts How data can affect decision-making? –Distinctions between monitoring and research become blurred. Becomes difficult to determine what variables are critical for monitoring because all are considered critical. –Biological responses will continue to be in the realm of uncertainty in the short-term.

20 Longevity and Persistence in Efforts How data can affect decision-making? –Policies that may be beneficial may not necessarily be implemented because they did not show a “significant” response. –In an effort to show success, wrong conclusions may be made. –Policy may not be feasible in long-term water delivery scenario.

21 Integration and Coordination Across Policies, Stakeholder Interests, Disciplines More clearly articulating what are the trade-offs with any experiment. –Dependent on status and quality of monitoring programs. Balancing political merits of an experiment with economic and social costs. Requires of knowledge of support by stakeholders.

22 Where Are We? Infancy of adaptive management. –AM has been around for 20 years, while this program has only been in operation for 6. Objective driven experimentation. –Are these policies limiting factors in adaptive management? –Is there a different way to approach experimentation while still addressing ES issues and meeting delivery requirements? FLEXIBILITY –Need to link delivery capabilities with biological or physical response variables. –Surplus delivery criteria may provide the flexible window for a short time period.

23 Where Are We? Learning is expensive and a long-term process. –Decide what is to be learned from this process. –Decide/reconcile how soon we think we need to know something and when we may actually know something. Risk assessment relative to policy actions. –Decide which experiments are the most uncertain or potentially environmentally damaging vs. others that may be informative and less risky. Requires a monitoring program to be in place first. –Do all policy actions have to include operations?

24 Where Are We? LSSF objective was to warm water and promote mainstem spawning/recruitment and assumed would enhance habitat for exotics. Rather than testing the assumption, fall spike occurred to dampen an effect that was unknown. Did the speculative risk confound the experimental design?

25 Where Are We? Need to incorporate human needs and environmental values more fully into process.

26 References and acknowledgements Bureau of Reclamation Glen Canyon Dam Interim Operating Criteria Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment. Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado Region, Salt Lake City, Utah. Dovers, S.R Processes and institutions to inform decisions in the longer term in Proceedings, Tracking Progress, 1996 Fenner Conference on the Environment, Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW, Sydney. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological opinion of the effects of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River as it affects endangered species. Memorandum from Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Actin Regional Director Harl Noble, Bureau of Reclamation, Salt Lake City, Utah. Walters C. J. and C.S. Holling Large-Scale Management Experiments and Learning by Doing. Ecology 71: ________ Challenges in adaptive management of riparian and coastal ecosystems. Conservation Ecology 1 (2):1. [online] URL:http//www.consecol.org/vol 1/iss2/art1 _______, J. Korman, L.Stevens, B. Gold Ecosystem modeling for evaluation of adaptive management policies in the Grand Canyon. Conservation Ecology 4(2): 1. [online] URL: 1.


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