Conservation Concerns and Research Avenues

Habitat. Changes to the habitat of the Hudson River estuary have diminished its runs of diadro-mous fishes. The southernmost dam on the river was constructed in 1832 near Troy (Brumbach, 1986). Prior to the building of this and other upstream dams, American shad and river herring ascended to at least the Battenkill River (Greeley and Bishop, 1933), Fish Creek (Brumbach, 1986), and possibly, Glens Falls (Boyle, 1969); eels penetrated considerably farther into the watershed (Greeley and Bishop, 1933). Today some fish pass upriver through the navigation locks or through the dam's hydroelectric turbines (at their peril -during their spawning migration wounded adult blueback herring often drift immediately downcur-rent of these turbines), but these obstacles create a bottleneck for fish movements in the upper river.

South of the Federal Dam but north of Manhattan, about half of the approximately sixty tributaries surveyed have manmade barriers that impede or prohibit fish passage (Schmidt, 1996). Artificial obstacles are also found on most tributaries entering greater New York Harbor (Durkas, 1992). Also, the degree of urbanization was shown to correlate negatively with runs of river herring in Hudson River tributaries (Limburg and Schmidt, 1990). Larger tributaries capable of supporting di-adromous fishes have also been compromised by contamination; the Passaic (Waldman, 1999) and Hackensack Rivers (Zeisel, 1995) once sustained runs of anadromous fishes.

It is reasonable to assume that the overall contraction of available habitat for diadromous fishes has resulted in a decrease in their abundance, albeit, one that is difficult to quantify. I am aware of only two locations in which available habitat has enlarged significantly in recent decades. One is the Mohawk River, which following improvements in water quality, now supports a large run of blueback herring which ascend from the Hudson River after moving past the Federal Dam. The other is the increase in water quality in the area of the Albany Pool, which suffered severe contamination and de-oxygenation from industry and sewage disposal. It is likely that passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 helped offset fish losses due to habitat restriction.

The most beneficial proactive improvement to habitat for diadromous fishes would be the removal of dams on tributaries and, where not feasible, the construction of fish passage facilities. An attractive location for a fish ladder is the Eddyville Dam near Kingston, which would open up seven miles on the Rondout River, potentially large enough to sup-portAmerican shad reproduction. Many additional sites have been identified (Schmidt, 1996; Schmidt and Lake, 2000).

Also, the Hudson River estuary lost the last of its vast oyster reefs approximately a century ago (Waldman, 1999). Oyster reefs are not only sources of human food but perhaps more importantly, nursery and feeding grounds for many es-tuarine fishes, including diadromous forms (Coen, Luckenbach, and Breitburg, 1999). Construction of artificial oyster reefs in the Hudson River estuary, as is actively occurring in the Chesapeake Bay, would be beneficial to the river's ichthyofauna.

Ecological interactions. A focus of research on the Hudson's diadromous fishes should be to achieve a better understanding of their ecological interactions with each other, with non-diadromous fishes, and with other organisms. Much of the work that has occurred on the diadromous fishes has been autecological and abundance- and mortality-based. Comparatively little attention has been given to the competitive and predatory connections among Hudson River fishes. For example, is the recent decline in white perch abundance partly attributable to the increase in striped bass? Have striped bass reduced the stock size of American shad and alewife? Did the protection afforded the river's shortnose sturgeon population provide them with a competitive advantage over Atlantic sturgeon? Young bluefish appear to prey heavily on juvenile striped bass (Juanes, Buckel, and Conover, 1994). How significant are bluefish in modulating recruitment of the Hudson's anadromous fishes? How important are sometimes abundant juvenile menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus in the lower estuary to subadultstripedbass?Whatwould application of Haley's (1998) gastric lavage approach to shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon caught contemporaneously from the same river reaches tell us about their trophic niches?

Strikingly little attention has been paid to the fishes of the Hudson River on the community level (see Gladden et al., 1988 for one exception). Daniels (1995) stated that "Although the Hudson River is among the most-studied aquatic systems in North America, data necessary to confirm population trends in its fish assemblage are scant." Although some changes in the relative abundances of particular species can be explained, many cannot. Moreover, how a dynamic community composition affects its individual components is not often clear.

Some species behaviors and interactions pose interesting evolutionary questions. Is carrying capacity a factor in the abundances and behaviors of anadromous fishes? Why is it that shortnose sturgeon - the far more residential of the two sturgeons - appears to nearly stop growing at adulthood and at a small size for an acipenserid whereas the more marine Atlantic sturgeon continues to grow and to a potentially massive size? Is the short-nose sturgeon adapted to the finite resources of a highly discrete river system and the Atlantic sturgeon to the nearly infinite resources of a vast coastal range? Likewise, does the relative abundance of the marine-migrating contingent of striped bass increase with stock size as a means to exploit resources outside the river?

And how have the diadromous fishes responded to the many colonizations by non-native species? Do the nowhighly-abundant gizzard shad compete with alosines? How heavily do black bass compete with or prey on anadromous piscivores? What is the net effect on anadromous fish nursery habitats of the replacement in entire freshwater coves of native plants such as Vallisneria by the Asian water chestnut Trapa natans?

Fishing and fish mortality from power plants. Any complex fish community is affected by sharp changes in abundance or age structure generated by unnatural sources of mortality. Because of PCB contamination, the entire diadromous fish complex of the Hudson River is not subject to legal commercial harvest in the river, albeit at the price of any sublethal effects stemming from their PCB body burdens.

The effects of electric generation plants on the Hudson's anadromous fish stocks continue to be monitored but are not necessarily well understood. Much of the knowledge gained between 1963 and 1980 through studies conducted in the course of the controversies over the effects of existing and proposed power plants on the Hudson River was summarized in Barnthouse et al. (1988). However, comparatively little information learned over the next score of years has reached the peer-reviewed literature and much of it remains in narrowly distributed and thinly distilled reports. Although the Settlement Agreement included provisions to reduce power plant-mortality of anadromous fishes, fundamental issues persist, such as whether compensatory processes mitigate mortalities to significant degrees. The role of power plants in the population dynamics of Hudson River fishes is likely to remain unclear in the near-term future as a reshuffling of ownership because of deregulation of the power industry and the possible construction of a new generation of power plants that use less river water.

Climate change. Ashizawa and Cole (1994) analyzed long-term water temperature data from Poughkeepsie and found a statistically significant trend of a 0.12°C increase per decade from about 1920 to 1990, a change theybelievedwas consistent with suggested rates of global increases. The biological effects of warming are becoming more apparent as the physical changes become more pronounced and as the time spans monitored become lengthier. Oglesby (1995) showed evidence of significantly earlier blooming ofvegetation and spring arrivals of migratory birds in the Hudson Valley. However, he did not detect a change in the average arrival time of anadromous fish in the Hudson River, due, in part, to high interannual variances.

Nonetheless, the status of rainbow smelt at the limits of its southern distribution may be a bellwether. Decades ago smelt entered the Delaware River and its tributary, Brandywine Creek in Maryland; the last known capture in the D elaware system occurred in 1986 (Raasch andAltemus, 1991). Rainbow smelt now appear to be extinct in the Hudson River and, another cold-water species at the margin of its distribution, Atlantic tomcod, also maybe thermally stressed and could become extinct in the Hudson River Estuary.


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