Hurricane's Effects Killed Sturgeon in Apalachicola River
Published:12 Dec.2022    Source:ScienceDaily
As hurricane Michael churned through the Gulf of Mexico to make landfall near Florida's Apalachicola River in 2018, it left a sea of destruction in its wake.The path was easy to follow on land, but debris and infrastructure failures also diminished the river's water quality and led to the death of roughly half the gulf sturgeon population there. A study reveals new details in how a decrease in oxygen levels affected the river's ability to sustain life in the days following the historic Category 5 storm. The results were published in the December issue of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.
Data supporting the findings was possible due to an ongoing long-term project in the Apalachicola River monitoring gulf sturgeon. Fish that had been fitted with special tags continued to be tracked by equipment that survived the storm, while weather stations and tide gauges reported statistics such as temperature, water flows and oxygen levels. As a result, scientists have a precise timeline of what happened with oxygen levels in the river, as well as the fate of sturgeon that were able to escape up the river or into the Gulf of Mexico. All of that gave us information that we saw a decline of 36% to 60% of the adult fish compared to pre-storm estimates. Previous studies have documented drops in water oxygen levels due to hurricanes -- and the resulting fish kills -- but this is the first study to quantitatively assess how a hurricane affected gulf sturgeon. With a population estimated to be around 1,000 adult fish, losing between 30% and 60% could be an immense setback,  especially as hurricanes are forecast to gain in number and strength due to climate change. This is obviously very concerning, especially because with climate change, hurricanes are supposed to increase with frequency and intensity.