CERC Branch: Pallid Sturgeon Effects Analysis

Background:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently initiated an effects analysis (EA) for the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP).  The EA was strongly encouraged by the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) and the MRRIC Independent Science Advisory Committee (ISAP) as a means to review recovery progress, provide quantitative models relating endangered species’ responses to management actions, provide a foundation for structured decision making, and to create a framework for continued monitoring and assessment through adaptive management.  As formulated under the Endangered Species Act, an effects analysis evaluates proposed actions taken by a federal agency on a listed species or critical habitat (

Murphy and Weiland, 2011

).  The guidance document for the Missouri River EA states:

“The Effects Analysis proposed here will inform current AM (adaptive management) efforts and several key portions of the Management Plan and its future implementation within an adaptive management framework including, but not limited to: refining CEMs (conceptual ecological models) to guide quantitative models, providing tools to inform setting quantitative targets for species objectives, compiling and assessing existing data and modeling resources, analyzing and assessing pertinent scientific and operational information to identify the effects of system operations and actions on species populations and their habitats, and developing quantitative models that can be used for forecasting the effect of different alternatives on listed species performance.”

The EA serves as a punctuation in MRRP progress, allowing for evaluation of program effectiveness and recalibration of some program activities, particularly those related to science efforts to support adaptive management. The EA has a near-term application in providing information to the Missouri River Recovery Management Plan and EIS  (


).  The Management Plan EIS is slated to be completed in 2015, but the EA, in concept, is the foundation that will underlie all aspects of ongoing and future adaptive management of Missouri River recovery.  In particular, the EA will be used as the structure for future hypothesis-based monitoring and assessment.

Structure:  The EA process has been constructed around 3 interactive teams: Hydrology and Hydraulics, Birds (Interior Least Tern and Piping Plover), and Pallid Sturgeon.  The Hydrology and Hydraulics team is headed by Dr. Craig Fischenich, USACE-ERDC; the Birds team is headed by Dr. Kate Buneau, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); and the sturgeon team is headed by Dr. Robert Jacobson, USGS-CERC.  The EA teams coordinate with the USACE and USFWS Missouri River adaptive management teams through weekly conference calls.  Because of the fundamental causal linkages from management actions to hydrology/hydraulics, to physical habitats, and to fish and bird population responses, PIs Jacobson and Buenau work very closely with Fischenich and the hydrology and habitat team.

Each team is organized somewhat differently, but all teams have in common a core work team with individuals who will spend as much as 50% of their time over the next two years committed to the EA.  Teams were assembled to provide needed expertise in river processes, population biology, and modeling applications to support structured decision making.  The USGS-led sturgeon team consists of:




Robert Jacobson

US Geological Survey, Columbia, MO

Principal investigator; expertise in Missouri River hydrology, hydraulics, habitat dynamics, pallid sturgeon reproductive ecology.

Michael Colvin

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Expertise in fisheries, population modeling, structured decision making.

Daniel James

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Pierre, SD

Expertise in pallid sturgeon ecology and Missouri River native fishes

Michael Parsley

US Geological Survey, Cook, WS

Expertise in sturgeon population ecology and large-river management.

Tim Welker

US Army Corps of Engineers, Yankton, SD

Expertise in pallid sturgeon population ecology and large-river management.

Mandy Annis

US Geological Survey, Columbia, MO

Expertise in toxicology, contaminants, and pallid sturgeon physiology; team logistics.

While the bulk of the workload is being handled by these 6 individuals, the EA effort has also defined two broader, concentric support groups.  The “cadre” is composed of additional sturgeon biologists and river ecologists, 5 from USGS, 2 from USACE, 2 from USFWS, and 2 from PNNL.  These individuals have indicated that they can contribute their technical expertise and some significant time to the EA process by providing data, review, feedback, and participation in workshops.  The “review, resource team” is a broader group of 30 or so individuals who will be offered the opportunity to participate in workshops and to review draft documents.  The goal of this concentric design is to assure that the EA process has comprehensive input and buy-in from a broad range of disciplinary, geographic, and agency perspectives.

Additional USGS support for the EA process will be in the form of requests to USGS experts for participation in workshops, contribution of data, and review of EA products.  Input from tern and plover biologists at Northern Prairie Wildlife Science Center (NPWRC) will be critical to the success of the bird EA.  Input from hydrologists and geomorphologists in the Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri Water Science Centers, the National Research Program, and the Columbia Environmental Research Center will be critical to progress of all three teams.

The Effects Analysis will be documented n a number of publications.  The foundation will be three USGS open-file reports that detail processes of conceptualizing ecological processes, assessing available information, and filtering hypotheses. We anticipate additional technical and synthetic publications detailing the analysis process and describing lessons learned in applying science information to management of a multi-purpose river system.

Jacobson, R.B., Annis, M.L., Colvin, M.E., James, D.A., Parsley, M.J., and Welker, T.L., in review, Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon Conceptual Ecological Models: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-file Report, 2014-xxxx, 56 p. ftp://ftpext.usgs.gov/pub/cr/mo/columbia/Jacobson/EA_Docs/ReviewDoc/SturgeonCEMNarrative_20140109.pdf.

Jacobson, R.B., Annis, M.L., Colvin, M.E., James, D.A., Parsley, M.J., and Welker, T.L., In prep., Science information to support Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon effects analysis: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-file Report, 2004-xxxx, 84 p.

Jacobson, R.B., Annis, M.L., Colvin, M.E., James, D.A., Parsley, M.J., and Welker, T.L., in review, Development of Working Hypotheses Linking Management of the Missouri River to Pallid Sturgeon Population Dynamics: US Geological Survey, Open-file Report, 2014-xxxx, 46 p. ​​​​​​​​​​​


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