Culverts delay upstream and downstream migrations of river herring (Alosa spp.)

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Abstract

Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) are iteroparous anadromous fish found throughout the East Coast of North America. The phenology of anadromous fish migrations is important for fitness, and the duration of spawning migrations has been compressed in recent years in response to climate change. Anthropogenic barriers to movement, such as dams and culverts at road-stream crossings, can further disrupt migration phenology by delaying movement and increasing predation risk. We used passive integrated transponder (PIT) telemetry to quantify upstream and downstream migratory delay at five road-stream-crossing culverts on the Herring River (MA, USA). Groundspeeds were reduced at all culverts in both directions, confirming that the culverts impede movement despite high passage proportions. The cumulative delay of the culverts on the upstream migration was sufficient to more than double the amount of time required to traverse the river if the culverts had been absent. Furthermore, the presence of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) ambushing river herring within one of the culverts resulted in reduced passage rates beyond the reduction in movement caused by the physical structure itself. This highlights that physical barriers can create cascading ecological consequences and the importance of taking a holistic approach to understanding barrier effects.

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Alcott, D., Goerig, E., & Castro-Santos, T. (2021). Culverts delay upstream and downstream migrations of river herring (Alosa spp.). River Research and Applications, 37(10), 1400–1412. https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.3859

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