Evaluation of Reconnection Options for White Sturgeon in the Snake River Using a Population Viability Model
Henrietta I. Jager, Mark S. Bevelhimer, Ken B. Lepla, James A. Chandler, and Webb Van Winkle
Abstract.— This paper describes a simulation study of reconnection options for white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus subpopulations in adjacent river segments above and below CJ Strike Dam on the Snake River, Idaho, USA. In contrast to the downstream river segment, the upstream river segment is long and has areas that are suitable for spawning during normal and wet hydrologic conditions. We evaluated demographic and genetic consequences of upstream and downstream passage using different model assumptions about trashrack spacing and density-dependent effects on the spawning interval. Our genetic results predict that, although reconnection would introduce new alleles to the upstream subpopulation, it would also preserve alleles from the downstream subpopulation by propagating them in the larger subpopulation above the dam. Our demographic results predict that halving the space between trashracks would have large and unequivocal benefits, whereas the predicted effects of reconnection were smaller and more sensitive to model assumptions. Simulated upstream passage tended to benefit both subpopulations only in the absence of density-dependent limitation. In the presence of density dependence, the combination of halved trashrack spacing and upstream and downstream passage produced the best results. Narrower trashracks kept spawning adults in the upstream segment with spawning habitat, while allowing their progeny to migrate downstream. Screening appears to be the best option for such a species in this configuration of a long river segment acting as a demographic source above a short one acting as a demographic sink.