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Redhorse Sucker Species


School of RedhorseRAMAS®Ecological Risk Model for Assessing Temperature Effects on Redhorse Sucker Species in the Muskingum River

Karen V. Root and
Resit Akçakaya

funded by

Electric Power Research Institute and
American Electric Power Service Corporation



        Using data provided by the American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEP) on the golden redhorse (GRH), the silver redhorse (SRH) and the shorthead redhorse (SHRH) populations in the Muskingum River in Ohio, we addressed the question of what impact elevated water temperatures produced by the Muskingum River Power Plant (MRPP) and Conesville Power Plant (CPP) might have on these fish.

        We used census data from consecutive years to estimate an age-structured model, and data from whole-river surveys to estimate abundance of populations in each section of the river between dams. We modeled the effect of elevated temperatures on survival and fecundity, based on data from a short-term thermal exposure experiment. We input these data into a RAMAS Metapop model, and ran simulations under various scenarios of temperature regimes. model

        Because of the incompleteness of demographic data, we were forced to make several assumptions about the dynamics of the redhorse species in the Muskingum River.  Because of these assumptions, the results of this analysis should be interpreted with caution.  In general, exposure to elevated temperatures increased the predicted risk of decline of all three species.  The increase in risk is substantially lower if, during the warmest periods, fish dispersed to tributaries, where temperatures are assumed to be about 4-5°C cooler.

        The sensitivity analyses identified the most important parameters, and thus pointed out the most useful types of data that can be collected to improve the model. These included a long-term mark-recapture study designed to estimate survival rates at an annual time scale at different temperature regimes, densities and habitats; a parallel study focusing on recruitment; and an extensive habitat sampling in all tributary streams suspected to be used as refugia.

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Date modified: 3-24-00