Biomonitoring of environmental status and trends (BEST) program: environmental contaminants, health indicators, and reproductive biomarkers in fish from the Mobile, Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint, Savannah, and Pee Dee River basins
Hinck, J.E., V.S. Blazer, N.D. Denslow, K.R. Echols, R.W. Gale, T.W. May, R. Claunch, C.Wieser, P.J. Anderson, J.J. Coyle, T.S. Gross, and D.E. Tillitt
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio) were collected from 13 sites in 4 river basins in the southeastern United States to document spatial trends in accumulative contaminants, health indicators, and reproductive biomarkers. Organochlorine residues, 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin-like activity (TCDD-EQ), and elemental contaminants were measured in composite samples of whole fish, grouped by species and gender, from each site. Fish were field-examined for external and internal anomalies, selected organs were weighed to compute somatic indices, and tissue and fluid samples were preserved for fish health and reproductive biomarker analyses.
Mercury concentrations in bass samples from all sites exceeded toxicity thresholds for mammals [>0.1 micrograms per gram wet weight (μg/g ww)], fish (>0.2 μg/g ww), and birds (>0.3 μg/g ww) and were greatest (>0.5 μg/g ww) in samples from the Alabama River at Eureka Landing, Alabama; the Mobile River at Bucks, Alabama; the Apalachicola River at Blountstown, Florida; the Savannah River at Sylvania, Georgia; and the Pee Dee River at Bucksport, South Carolina. Selenium concentrations were relatively high (>0.75 μg/g ww) in fish from the Tombigbee River at Lavaca, Alabama; the Mobile River at Bucks; and the Chattahoochee River at Omaha, Georgia compared to those from other sites. Concentrations of 2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)- 1,1-dichloroethylene (p,p’-DDE) were high in fish from the Chattahoochee River at Omaha and the Mobile River near Bucks, which was near a 2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)-1,1- dichloroethylene (DDT) formulating facility that historically discharged into the lower Mobile River.
Toxaphene concentrations in fish from the Flint River near Albany, Georgia (60-100 nanograms per gram (ng/g) ww) may pose a risk to fish. Concentrations of other formerly used (total chlordanes, dieldrin, endrin, aldrin, mirex, and hexachlorobenzene) and currently used (pentachlorobenzene, pentachloroanisole, dacthal, endosulfan, γ-HCH, and methoxychlor) organochlorine residues generally were low or did not exceed toxicity thresholds. Total polychlorinated biphenyls concentrations in samples from the Coosa River at Childersburg, Alabama; the Apalachicola River at Omaha; the Apalachicola River at Blountstown; and the Pee Dee River at Bucksport were >480 ng/g ww and may be a risk to piscivorous wildlife. Dioxin-like activity as measured by TCDD-EQ was greatest [>10 picograms per gram (pg/g)] in male fish from the Coosa River at Childersburg and the Mobile River at Bucks. Hepatic ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity generally was greatest in carp from the Mobile River Basin [means >10 picomols per minute per milligram of protein (pmol/min/mg)] and in bass from the Tombigbee River at Lavaca and Pee Dee River at Pee Dee, South Carolina (means >65 pmol/min/mg). Altered biomarkers were noted in fish from all basins.
The field necropsy and histopathological examination determined that fish from the Mobile River Basin generally were in poorer health than those from the other basins. In bass, health assessment index scores were correlated with mercury and p,p’-DDE concentrations. High health assessment index scores in Mobile River Basin fish were widespread and caused primarily by parasitic infestations, which were most severe in fish from the Tombigbee River at Lavaca and the Alabama River at Eureka Landing. Tumors were present in few fish (n = 5; 0.01%). Ovarian tumors of the same origin (smooth muscle) were present in two older carp from the Chattahoochee River near Omaha, Georgia and may be contaminant related. Reproductive biomarkers including gonadosomatic index, vitellogenin concentrations, and steroid hormone concentrations were anomalous in fish from various sites but were not consistently related to any particular chemical contaminant. Intersex gonads were identified in 47 male bass (42%) representing 12 sites and may indicate exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds. The incidence of intersex male bass was greatest in the Pee Dee River Basin and least severe in the Mobile River Basin. Male bass and carp with low concentrations of vitellogenin were common in all basins. Comparatively high vitellogenin concentrations [>0.35 milligram per milliliter (mg/mL)] in male fish from the Coosa River at Childersburg, the Savannah River at Sylvania, and the Pee Dee River at Rockingham and Bucksport indicate exposure to estrogenic or anti-androgenic chemicals.
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging and devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America. WNS is caused by a cold-growing fungus (Geomyces destructans) that infects the skin of hibernating bats during winter and causes life-threatening alterations in physiology and behavior. WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006. This new disease is causing mass mortality and detrimentally affecting most of the 6 species of bats that hibernate in the northeastern United States. Particularly hard-hit are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Several more species are also now known to be exposed to the fungus in the Midwest and Southeast. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with white-nose syndrome is unprecedented in any of the world’s bats and is a cause for international concern as the fungus and the disease spread farther north, south, and west. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Tracking a Deadly Disease
Because WNS is spreading so rapidly, field surveillance data and diagnostic samples must be managed efficiently so that critical information can be communicated quickly among State and Federal land managers, as well as the public. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which plays a primary role in coordinating the Federal response to WNS, worked with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Web Applications Team to develop the White-nose Syndrome Disease Tracking System. Version 1.0 of this system, released for Beta testing in May 2011, addresses two critical objectives:
enable state-level resource managers to effectively manage WNS field and laboratory data, and
provide customizable map and data reports of surveillance findings. The WNS Disease Tracking System subsequently was demonstrated to resource managers involved in the WNS response, and system users are assisting with in-depth testing. Once resource-management users are all trained (autumn 2011), they will begin populating the system with surveillance data, much of which will be immediately available to the public.
WNS version 1.0 was released into production in November, 2011 and state points-of-contact are currently being trainined. New users are providing ciritical feedback for WNS version 2.0, which is currently being planned with Fish and Wildlife Region 5 and the National White-nose Syndrome Data Management Team.
Key System Components
Disease Tracking: Customizable disease tracking maps and data exports for all U.S. states and counties
Disease Reporting: Tissue sample database management for authorized resource managers as well as a publicly accessible database of disease reporting contacts for all U.S. States and Federal resource management agencies
Diagnostic Labs: Directory of laboratories involved in white-nose syndrome diagnostic analyses
Summary and analysis of the U.S. government Bat Banding Program
This report summarizes the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program (BBP) from 1932 to 1972. More than 2 million bands were issued during the program, of which approximately 1.5 million bands were applied to 36 bat species by scientists in many locations in North America including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Throughout the BBP, banders noticed numerous and deleterious effects on bats, leading to a moratorium on bat banding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a resolution to cease banding by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1973. One of the main points of the memorandum written to justify the moratorium was to conduct a "detailed evaluation of the files of the bat-banding program." However, a critical and detailed evaluation of the BBP was never completed. In an effort to satisfy this need, I compiled a detailed history of the BBP by examining the files and conducting a literature review on bat banding activities during the program. I also provided a case study in managing data and applying current mark-recapture theory to estimate survival using the information from a series of bat bands issued to Clyde M. Senger during the BBP. The majority of bands applied by Senger were to Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), a species of special concern for many states within its geographic range. I developed a database management system for the bat banding records and then analyzed and modeled survival of hibernating Townsend's big-eared bats at three main locations in Washington State using Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) open models and the modeling capabilities of Program MARK. This analysis of a select dataset in the BBP files provided relatively precise estimates of survival for wintering Townsend's big-eared bats. However, this dataset is unique due to its well-maintained and complete state and because there were high recapture rates over the course of banding; it is doubtful that other unpublished datasets of the same quality exist buried in the BBP files for further analyses. Lastly, I make several recommendations based on the findings of this summary and analysis, the most important of which is that marking bats with standard metal or split-ring forearm bands should not be considered for mark-recapture studies unless the information sought and the potential for obtaining unbiased estimates from that information vastly outweighs the potential negative effects to the bats.
Bats are ecologically and economically important mammals. The life histories of bats (particularly their low reproductive rates and the need for some species to gather in large aggregations at limited numbers of roosting sites) make their populations vulnerable to declines. Many of the species of bats in the United States (U.S.) and territories are categorized as endangered or threatened, have been candidates for such categories, or are considered species of concern. The importance and vulnerability of bat populations makes monitoring trends in their populations a goal for their future management. However, scientifically rigorous monitoring of bat populations requires well-planned, statistically defensible efforts. This volume reports findings of an expert workshop held to examine the topic of monitoring populations of bats. The workshop participants included leading experts in sampling and analysis of wildlife populations, as well as experts in the biology and conservation of bats. Findings are reported in this volume under two sections. Part I of the report presents contributed papers that provide overviews of past and current efforts at monitoring trends in populations of bats in the U.S. and territories. These papers consider current techniques and problems, and summarize what is known about the status and trends in populations of selected groups of bats. The contributed papers in Part I also include a description of the monitoring program developed for bat populations in the United Kingdom, a critique of monitoring programs in wildlife in general with recommendations for survey and sampling strategies, and a compilation and analysis of existing data on trends in bats of the U.S. and territories. Efforts directed at monitoring bat populations are piecemeal and have shortcomings. In Part II of the report, the workshop participants provide critical analyses of these problems and develop recommendations for improving methods, defining objectives and priorities, gaining mandates, and enhancing information exchange to facilitate future efforts for monitoring trends in U.S. bat populations.
Monitoring trends in bat populations of the United States and territories: status of the science and recommendations for the future
Populations of bats (Order Chiroptera) are difficult to monitor. However, current recognition of the importance of bats to biodiversity, their ecological and economic value as ecosystem components, and their vulnerability to declines makes monitoring trends in their populations a much-needed cornerstone for their future management. We report finding and recommendations for a recent expert workshop on monitoring trends in bat populations in the United States and territories…
Worst-case scenario for the navigational development and subsequent environmental impact in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins. p