Canadian Freshwater Species at Risk Research Network

In February 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the University of Toronto held a workshop to summarize research completed and underway for 43 SARA- and COSEWIC-listed fish and mussel species based on a review of 31 Recovery Strategies and 23 Recovery Potential Assessments. The workshop was attended by 34 academic researchers, DFO and provincial SAR scientists, and DFO SAR Program managers. The workshop indicated that substantial progress has been made for population ecology and habitat-related research; however, threat research (i.e., understanding causal threat mechanisms and their impact) and recovery research (threat mitigation and science to support reintroductions) have been poorly studied, despite their capstone focus in federal recovery strategies. Group discussions at the workshop explored new scientific approaches to address priority themes and several novel approaches emerged, such as experimental populations to evaluate species responses to threats and environmental stressors. Building on themes identified in the workshop, the three year Canadian Freshwater Species at Risk Research Network was instigated in FY 2017-18, encompassing 14 academic projects, 10 Canadian and American universities, and three DFO regions (Pacific, Central and Arctic, Quebec). The network is overseen by Dr. Nicholas E. Mandrak, Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough, and Dr. Andrew Drake, DFO Science.

The network encompasses the following themes:

Theme 1: Field, lab, and analytical experiments to better understand threat mechanisms (causative factors) and impacts (consequences of causative factors), including relationships between multiple interacting stressors and species responses, such as changes to vital rates. Projects that identify clear opportunities for threat mitigation (e.g., stressor-response relationships) have been prioritized.

Theme 1 projects (threat mechanisms, consequences, mitigation) are being undertaken by: University of British Columbia/Province of BC (PI Jordan Rosenfeld, Determining the effects of stream flow, temperature, nutrient inputs, and hypoxia to Salish Sucker critical habitat), the University of Alberta (PI Mark Poesch, Relationships between hydrologic regime and population responses in Mountain Sucker), the University of Waterloo (PI Kim Cuddington, Quantifying the significance of environmental autocorrelation on population responses; PI Michael Power, Relationships between thermal variability and population responses in coastal wetland species), the University of Toronto (PIs Nicholas Mandrak, Relationship between critical thermal maxima and population viability, PI Don Jackson, Role of species co-occurrences in site occupancy of listed species), McGill University (PI Lauren Chapman, Interactions between hypoxia and temperature effects on vital rates of listed fishes; PI Anthony Ricciardi, Interactions between aquatic invasive species and vital rates of redhorses), the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières (PI Marco Rodriguez, Relationship between site occupancy and environmental stressors, especially turbidity); and, the University of Guelph (PI Josef Ackerman, effects of multiple stressors (stream flow, temperature, nutrient loading) on ecohydrology of freshwater mussels).

Theme 2: Developing captive rearing techniques for listed freshwater fishes and mussels, including research to understand mating systems and the development of experimental populations.

Projects for Theme 2 (captive rearing and reintroduction) will be undertaken by: Carleton University (PI Steven Cooke, Systematic review of captive breeding programs for freshwater fishes and mussels emphasizing key uncertainties for reintroductions in Canada), the University of Toronto (PI Don Jackson, Species distribution models to evaluate candidate sites for reintroductions), Central Michigan University (PI Dave Zanatta, Development of empirically-driven genetic guidelines for captive breeding and propagation of freshwater mussels), the University of Guelph (PI Josef Ackerman, Identification of juvenile freshwater mussel habitat to support site selection during reintroduction); and, the University of Windsor (PI Trevor Pitcher, Developing captive rearing techniques for freshwater species at risk in the UWindsor experimental hatchery).