We studied growth, condition, spawning period, activity patterns, and movement in the Salish Suckers of Pepin Brook in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. Radio- telemetry showed that fish were crepuscular, had home ranges averaging 170 m of linear channel, made their longest movements during the spawning period (March to early July), and rarely crossed beaver dams. Relative to closely related catosto- mids, Salish Suckers are small, early maturing, and have a prolonged spawning pe- riod. These characteristics are likely to impart good resilience to short-term distur- bances of limited spatial scale and to facilitate successful reintroductions to suitable habitat. The chronic, large-scale disruptions that affect their habitat in Canada, how- ever, are likely to cause further extirpations over time. Given its limited geographic distribution, management of the Salish Sucker should focus on protecting all re- maining habitat and exploiting opportunities for habitat restoration and reintroduc- tion into suitable habitats throughout their historic range.
Little information is available on the natural history, abundance, population trends, and habitat use of the Salish Sucker. Consequently there are many uncertainties in this paper. The Salish Sucker is documented from 11 watersheds in Canada and six in Washington State. No populations are known to have been extirpated, but significant reductions in area occupied within many of the watersheds are documented. Insufficient information exists to estimate minimum viable population size, but the Salish Sucker’s life history traits are associated with rapid population growth, resilience to environmental disturbance, and the ability to rapidly (re)colonize habitat. Seasonal hypoxia is the leading threat, affecting up to two-thirds of the more than 180 km of proposed critical habitat in hot dry summers. Habitat destruction, seasonal dewatering, and toxicity are also considered significant threats. Sediment deposition, habitat fragmentation, and introduced predators may be significant but their impacts are poorly understood. Target population sizes vary from 1500 to 5000 adults in the 11 known populations. Estimates of current abundance exist for all or part of seven populations and are far below target populations in all cases. Achieving targets is feasible if the geographic extent of severe hypoxia in proposed critical habitat is reduced.
Potential critical habitat (PCH) is defined for Salish sucker and Nooksack dace. PCH is identified and mapped using reach-scale, in-stream habitat characteristics. PCH includes 166 km of channel and 328 km of bank in140 reaches and 11 watersheds. The width of riparian reserve necessary to maintain important habitat characteristics is included in PCH and was assessed using an adaptation of British Columbia’s Riparian Area Regulation (RAR) assessment methodology. It extends laterally from the top of bank along both banks of the full length of each potential critical habitat reach to a distance equal to the widest zone of sensitivity (ZOS) calculated for each of 5 riparian features, functions and conditions. These are: large woody debris supply for fish habitat and maintenance of channel morphology, localized bank stability, channel movement, shade, and insect and debris fall. Widths of riparian reserve in PCH reaches range from 5 to 30 m, with an average of 21.4 m (s. dev = 6.77) and total area encompasses 717 ha of land.
Existing riparian vegetation in PCH is sparse, with 60% of bank length supporting discontinuous bands of vegetation less than 5 m wide. This highlights the need for recovery activities focused on riparian enhancement and restoration. Permanent structures such as roads, farm crossings, buildings, and yards restrict the width of 106 km (32%) of riparian reserve within PCH to less than its calculated value. Actively farmed land and golf course fairways impinge on an additional 112 km (34%) of PCH length. Protecting this land is a priority for conserving these species and would provide benefits to a number of other SARA listed species, in addition to salmonids, surface water quality, and (in many cases) agricultural drainage.
I studied the ecology and assessed the current status and prospects for recovery of two endangered fishes, the Salish sucker and the Nooksack dace. Salish sucker populations were located in 9 of 45 Fraser Valley watersheds. Distribution is discontinuous and abundance is spatially clumped at the regional and watershed scales. Populations are concentrated in headwaters, especially beaver ponds. The amount of deep pool habitat in a reach is the most powerful predictor of presence, but fish are usually absent if more than 50% of the land within 200 m of a reach is urban. Radio telemetry work showed that Salish suckers are crepuscular, have home ranges averaging 170 m of linear channel, made their longest movements during the spawning period (March to early June) and rarely crossed beaver dams. Relative to closely related Catostomids, they are small, early maturing, and have a prolonged spawning period. Nooksack dace are limited to three watersheds in Canada. Populations are spatially clumped. The amount of riffle habitat in a reach is the most powerful predictor of their presence, while long sections of deep pool are associated with absence. Mark-recapture work suggests that dace typically range over less than 50 m of channel, but that a small number venture further. Spawning is prolonged (April –July). Life history characteristics of both species are likely to impart good resilience to short-term disturbances of limited spatial scale, but not to the chronic, large-scale disruptions that affect their habitat in Canada. I identified eight potential threats and for each assessed species vulnerability, severity in each population’s watershed, and the ability of current legislation and policy to address it. In light of these three factors, Salish suckers appear most threatened by acute hypoxia and Nooksack dace are most threatened by lack of water. Both species have been strongly impacted by habitat destruction from drainage and infilling projects and may be vulnerable to introduced predators and habitat fragmentation. Toxicity from urban runoff, sediment deposition and riffle loss to beaver ponds (dace only) threaten individual populations, but are probably not major threats across the range.
Using Recovery Science and Recovery Action in Mutual Support: a Case Study of Habitat Restoration for the Salish Sucker
The purpose of this study is to inventory the extent and condition of habitat in the Canadian streams in which Salish sucker and Nooksack dace occur, and to identify and prioritize restoration needs based on available life history information for both species.
Appendix 2 contains desscriptions and data for each reach of Cave, Bertrand, Pepin, and Fishtrap Creeks surveyed during the summer of 1997. In addition specific habitat enhancement needs for each reach are identified and prioritized. The document is intended to provide fine-scale baseline information from which to assess habitat changes over time and to provide a basis for prioritizing specific projects.