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Strategic Habitat Assessment for Aquatic Species

of Conservation Concern in Alabama

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation, and Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) are focusing conservation activities for managing, recovering,   and restoring populations of rare and/or protected fishes, mussels, snails, and crayfishes in targeted watersheds and river segments in Alabama.  The 51 Strategic Habitat Units (SHUs) and Strategic River Reach Units (SRRUs) include a substantial part of Alabama’s remaining high-quality water courses, and reflect the variety of aquatic habitats occupied by these species historically and presently.  SHUs and SRRUs facilitate the coordination of watershed management and restoration efforts as well as to focus funding to address habitat and water quality issues threatening these areas.   The SHU concept was first applied in the North River. 

A watershed assessment of North River SHU was conducted by GSA and other stakeholders of the Black Warrior Clean Water Partnership.  This study included biological monitoring of fish and mussel populations, stream habitat surveys, road crossing evaluations, & land cover analysis of nonpoint source pollution threats.  Historical water quality and biological studies in the North River watershed were also documented in the report.   The assessment provided a framework for the creation of the North River Watershed Management Plan (NRWMP).  The NRWMP received 319 funding that was used to hire a watershed coordinator to begin restoration work.  Similar watershed assessments are currently being conducted in the Big Canoe and Bear Creek SHUs.  To learn more about the statewide SHU effort, please visit



Cave Shrimp


Tuscumbia Darter

Cave Shrimp & Tuscumbia Darter

monitoring at Redstone Arsenal

GSA, in cooperation with the Cultural and Natural Resources Directorate of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal in Madison County (RSA), has conducted biological and water quality monitoring studies on and around RSA since 1990.  The Alabama cave shrimp, Palaemonias alabamae, a federally listed endangered species, occurs in Bobcat Cave and GSA has monitored that population and water quality aspects of the cave since 1990, with nearby Matthews Cave serving as a control.  Monitoring the cave shrimp population includes monthly visits to the cave recording numbers of individuals observed, numbers of gravid individuals 

and other noteworthy life history observations.  The Tuscumbia darter, Etheostoma tuscumbia, is known to occur in Williams Spring on RSA and is a species of High Conservation Priority in Alabama. GSA has monitored that population since 1999, employing a standardized sampling protocol, measurement of basic physical water quality parameters, and measurement of discharge during each site visit.  Other projects conducted by the Ecosystems Program on and near RSA have focused on the crayfish and mollusk faunas.  Please see Open File Report 1115 for a comprehensive record of GSA’s sampling efforts at Bobcat Cave from 1990- 2011.




Statewide crayfish distribution survey



85 species of crayfishes have been documented in Alabama – the largest number of species for any political province in North America.   There are also 11 undescribed taxa within the state awaiting formal descriptions.  Areas of the state which had been undersampled for crayfishes are currently being surveyed, with an emphasis on burrowing crayfish habitats, such as roadside ditches.  To learn more about this study, please see OFR 1102.




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