13 July 2020

Reviewing Aquatic Barrier Databases Around the World

Written by: Cassandra Doll

Aquatic species, such as fish, mussels, and crayfish, tremendously depend on a network of rivers and streams as pathways for movement. However, as long, linear ecosystems, rivers and streams are particularly vulnerable to fragmentation.

Barriers, such as dams, culverts, and other human-made or natural instream structures, are disrupting hydrological connectivity and reducing the distribution and habitat available to aquatic species. As such, aquatic barrier databases have been developed and maintained around the world to support the prioritization of remediating barriers affecting aquatic species, especially those that are anadromous.

This summer I’ve been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of the Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program (DFP) to develop recommendations for the improvement of an aquatic barrier database known as the California Passage Assessment Database (PAD). The PAD is a living inventory of known and potential barriers to anadromous salmonids in the state of California and the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon. Initially funded by the Coastal Conservancy, the PAD was developed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission with guidance from the California Fish Passage Forum in 2002. The PAD compiles barrier information from agencies, organizations, and landowners throughout the region, and allows past and future barrier assessments to be standardized and stored in one place. This information is used in a decision-support tool called FISHPass, which identifies barriers for remediation. These barriers are removed or modified to reduce stream fragmentation and restore spawning and riparian habitat for anadromous salmonids, such as Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead trout.


Snapshot of the PAD in the Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS)

To develop recommendations for the improvement of the PAD, I am currently reviewing several aquatic barrier databases and comparing them with the PAD. For each database, I am gathering information on the following components: geography, species, data collection and entry, data quality assurance and control, structure, funding, staff, and the known or potential issues with or associated with the database. This information will provide me with a better understanding of how other aquatic barrier databases are operating and whether the PAD should adopt any processes that have been shown to be successful in others.

After completing the comparative analysis, I will be reviewing the PAD records in the Klamath Basin for accuracy and standardization using satellite imagery, aerial photography, and local experts. I will share more details about this piece of my project in my next blog!

Photo: Damon Goodman and Owen Bissel

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office

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