UPPER OCONEE SCIENCE AND POLICY SUMMIT

In partnership with the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, the UGA River Basin Center, UGA Office of Sustainability, ACC Stormwater,  and ACC Water Conservation will host the third biennial Upper Oconee Watershed Policy Summit.  “Exploring the Intersection of Science and Policy in the Upper Oconee Watershed” will occur on Friday September 25, 2020. This will be a virtual event!

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The Role of Freshwater Crabs in Neotropical Streams

Freshwater crabs play an important role in the breakdown of nutrients from natural materials that fall into streams, but few studies have looked into exactly how their relationships with other detritivores and the leaf litter itself impacts ecosystems.  

River Basin Center graduate student Carol Yang shed light on these relationships in neotropical streams in two recently published papers.

In a paper published in Freshwater BiologyYang did an in-stream experiment in Monteverde, Costa Rica to examine the leaf litter in enclosures that contained crabs as compared to enclosures without crabs. One dynamic that Yang and colleagues hoped to learn more about was the relationship between crabs and other detritivores—which contribute to leaf breakdown, but that crabs frequently prey upon. 

Throughout the study, Yang and collaborators regularly sampled the leaf litter. They found that enclosures with crabs had faster rates of breakdown than those without, indicating that their manipulation and consumption of leaves had a larger impact than their consumption of other detritivores and shredders. 

In a follow up study published in Nauplius, Yang used a laboratory setting to gain a more in-depth understanding of the crab behaviors that most impacted leaf litter. The crabs were collected from Monteverde, Costa Rica, and transported to aquariums along with unfiltered stream water and leaves from a common subcanopy tree. 

Yang and colleagues found that the leaf mass was significantly higher in tanks with crabs than those without. They also used visual observations and recordings to watch as the crabs used their claws to grasp and shred the leaves, which aided in ingestion. At the end of the experiment, they observed that leaves in tanks with crabs were broken up into multiple pieces, whereas leaves in tanks without them remained whole.    

These studies suggest that crabs play an important role in helping to process the detritus that accumulates in neotropical streams, especially given their abundance in tropical streams. 

RBC Graduate Student Shishir Rao Featured in Nature inFocus

River Basin Center graduate student Shishir Rao’s research was recently feature in Nature inFocus, as part of the Save Every Drop Series. Rao studies how hydroelectric power (including small dams, which are installed in higher altitude rivers in the Western Ghats impact river biodiversity.

Rao has found the installation of these small hydroelectric projects disrupt migratory species, the diversion of water (which causes other portions of the river to dry up), the fluctuation of water levels, which threaten sensitive species, the accumulation of silt and sediment, which are later released and can suffocate fish. They may also contribute to human-elephant conflicts in neighboring communities.

To read more, check out the article here: https://www.natureinfocus.in/save-every-drop/a-voice-for-our-rivers

Dr. Krista Capps Tops the Charts

Congratulations to Dr. Krista Capps, a River Basin Center affiliate and professor at the University of Georgia, who authored the most read article of Freshwater Science within the past 12 months. Her research article, “Poverty, urbanization, and environmental degradation: urban streams in the developing world”, focuses on how an increase in urbanization is affecting the water resources of lower-income countries. Capps and her colleagues highlight the importance of integrative technologies and management techniques to best understand urban watersheds in these developing areas. Her publication has topped the charts, and UGA is proud of Capps’ continuing success. 

Link to Dr. Krista Capps’ Study: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/684945

Written by: Cammie Caldwell

A Wild Gopher Frog Chase

UGA Researcher Dr. Stacey Lance Searches for Gopher Frogs 

In a partnership with The Longleaf Alliance, a group dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for the longleaf pine ecosystem in the Southeastern United States, River Basin Center and Savannah River Ecology Lab researcher Dr. Stacey Lance is working to identify suitable habitat for Carolina gopher frogs, a species identified as endangered in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and to survey existing populations on private lands. 

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UGA Researcher Discovers Toxic Cyanobacteria

Author: Victoria Swyers

Man-made reservoirs throughout the Southeast have become infested with the invasive aquatic plant, hydrilla, (Hydrilla verticillata), which hosts a new species of toxic cyanobacteria. Waterfowl and birds of prey, most notably the American coot (Fulica americana), and bald eagle, (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), can consume the neurotoxin and die—within this unsuitable toxic habitat.

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