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  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
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Resource Management in a Changing Climate: Understanding the Relationships between Water Quality and Golden Alga Distribution in the Pecos River, New Mexico and Texas

Science Need

Projecting the resiliency and vulnerability of natural or cultural resources that affect or are affected by water resources management in a changing climate, Projecting future water availability and quality, and Assessing and evaluating natural or cultural resources management practices and adaptation opportunities.

Grantee: Texas Tech University
Principle Investigators: Dr. Reynaldo Patiño and Dr. Chris Taylor
Cooperative Agreement: $99,016 in non-Federal funds and $96,856 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2011-2013

Project Goal

Golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) is a harmful algal species that can release toxins fatal to fishes, bivalves, crayfish, and gilled amphibians, resulting in immense ecological and economic impacts.  This project will enhance understanding of environmental conditions, specifically water quality variables, which promote or regulate golden alga bloom formation in the Pecos River system. Managers will benefit from identifying specific attributes that promote golden alga bloom development and potential toxicity to aquatic species of concern.

Brief Project Description

Our approach will include sampling a wide range of habitats and environmental conditions throughout the middle and lower Pecos River basin, across an 18 month time-span to account for seasonal and phenological events. We will utilize a suite of univariate and multivariate statistical techniques to relate occurrence and density of golden alga to environmental factors and other co-occurring organisms. The proposed research will benefit managers of the Pecos River, of its associated reservoirs and unique habitats (sinkholes on the Bottomless Lakes State Park and Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge), and of its resident aquatic biota by identifying specific water quality attributes that promote golden alga bloom development and potential toxicity to several aquatic species of concern. More specifically, the information obtained may be useful to the management of surface water and its associated watershed either to prevent or to mitigate conditions that result in toxic algal blooms. Additional benefits will be to the recreational users of these systems, including anglers utilizing sport fisheries in the region.

Project Location

Middle and lower Pecos River basin in New Mexico and Texas.

Project Tasks

  1. Select sampling locations, water quality and golden alga variables to include water quality, specific ions, total nutrients and nutrient fractions, relative cyanobacteria densities and total chlorophyll, and golden alga density.
  2. Sample all sites once every 2 months for 18 months, encompassing expected peak golden alga seasons in winter/early spring and off-peak periods in summer/fall.
  3. Relate occurrence and density of golden alga to environmental factors and other co-occurring organisms using a suite of uivariate and multivariate techniques.

Project Deliverables

  1. Spatially explicit data for sampling locations and distribution of golden alga
  2. 2-3 peer-reviewed journal articles
  3. 5-6 scientific presentations at annual conferences

Documents for downloading

  1. Project Proposal