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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

River Productivity

Team Members

Biological production represents the total amount of living material (biomass) that was produced during a defined period of time. This production is important because some of it is used for food and some is valued for recreation, it is a direct measure of total ecosystem processes, and it sustains biological diversity. Production is a measure of energy flow, and is therefore a natural currency for ecosystems. A sound understanding of biological production is essential to the effective science-based management of ecosystems.

Anthropogenic disturbances such as nutrient loading, invasive species introductions and habitat alterations have profoundly impacted native food web dynamics and aquatic ecosystem productivity. Examples of these influences on temperate river systems are numerous. Wide-spread application of agricultural fertilizers has dramatically increased nitrogen loading.  Introductions of invasive species (e.g., zebra mussels, Asian carps) can result in competition for important food resources thereby impacting native fish and mussel populations. Dam construction on river systems worldwide has altered hydraulic retention times, physical habitats and nutrient processing dynamics. Understanding aquatic ecosystem productivity and food web dynamics is imperative for helping mitigate negative impacts on the socially-valued services they provide.

The team's long term goals are:

  • Upper Trophic Level Production: Quantify and describe functional relationships among aquatic species and habitats to provide information to conserve or restore aquatic community structure and function.
  • Lower Trophic Level Production: Provide new insights into the control of production and foodweb interactions in flood plain rivers in temperate regions.

The team's short term goals are:

  • Upper Trophic Level Production:
    • Develop research and technology tools to provide the scientific basis for developing adaptive management strategies and evaluating their effectiveness for restoration efforts to sustain aquatic resources.
    • Provide scientific information about the diversity, life history and species interactions that affect the condition and dynamics of aquatic communities.
  • Lower Trophic Level Production:
    • Develop predictive models useful to guide river management and river restoration and to support decisions pertaining to management of basin land use that impinges on river water quality and ecosystem health.
    • Assess the effectiveness of habitat rehabilitation and restoration efforts.

Current Project

  • Effects of Food Quality on Juvenile Unionid Mussel Survival and Growth in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
  • Distribution and Controls over Habitat and Food-web Structures and Processes in Great Lakes Estuaries
  • Evidence of Effects of Invasive Asian Carps on Selected fishes of the Upper Mississippi River System
  • Assessing the Threat and Predator Control of a Non-native, Aquatic Invader (Zebra Mussel Dreissena polymorpha) Impacting Endangered Native Mussel Resources in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN)
  • Loading, Processing, and Effects of Nutrients on Aquatic Biota in Flood Plain Backwaters and Channels of the St. Croix NSR (SACN) and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS)
  • Effects of Hydrologic Connectivity (Water Retention Time) on Fish and Food Webs in Off-channel Areas of the Upper Mississippi River as
    Determined with Fatty Acid and Stable Isotope Biomarkers
  • Effects of Asian Carp on Fish, Birds and Food Webs in Off-channel Areas of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers as Determined with Fatty Acid Biomarkers
  • Effects of Environmental Factors on the Abundance, Size Structure and Kinds of Fish in Off-channel Areas of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers as Determined with Data from the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
  • Effects of Environmental Factors on Mercury Accumulation in Fish and Food Webs in Remote Lakes of the Upper Midwest

Past Projects

Paddlefish Study


Fish sampling


Sediment core sampling

Plankton sampling
Plankton sampling


Electrofishing


Native mussel biopsy

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Page Last Modified: February 4, 2016