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Assessing effects of development on imperiled fishes for the Etowah Regional Habitat Conservation Plan.
Wenger, Seth1, Freeman, Byron1, 2, Freeman, Mary3, Roy, Allison1, Ensign, William4, 1 University of Georgia, Athens, GA2 Georgia Museum of Natural History, Athens, GA3 United States Geological Survey, Athens, GA4 Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA
ABSTRACT- Nineteen counties and cities have begun development of a regional Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for imperiled aquatic species in the Etowah River watershed, a highly diverse river system just north of Atlanta, GA, USA. Rapid urbanization in the region threatens the survival of nine fish species, some of which still await formal description. The purpose of the HCP is to minimize impacts of development on these species through growth management policies and regulations. However, we presently lack sufficient scientific information to determine the most effective tools for achieving this goal. To address this problem, we have initiated a program of study designed to answer some of our most pressing research questions: (1) What are the most significant mechanisms by which altered hydrology impacts aquatic species? (2) Is channel erosion from altered stream flows a significant source of sedimentation in developing watersheds? (3) Do riparian buffers play a significant role in protecting aquatic habitat in urban areas, or are they bypassed by storm drainage networks? (4) Do some culvert designs present greater genetic barriers than others? (5) Is development in specific subwatersheds impacting mainstem species? (6) Does clustered development provide better protection of aquatic habitat than sprawling development, on the landscape scale? We will use the results of these studies both to direct and to justify the policies and regulations recommended for the HCP.
Key words: fish, policy, endangered, urbanization