Fish Fry Day: Getting “Biggest Bang for Your Buck” in Conservation

by Kelly April Tyrrell
A few years ago, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology created the first map of all the road crossings and dams blocking the tributary rivers that feed the five Great Lakes. These tributaries serve as migratory highways, providing fish like walleye and lake sturgeon access to headwater breeding grounds.

Even the lowly road culvert, can have big impacts on fish passage. Photo: S. Januchowski-Hartley
Even the lowly road culvert, can have big impacts on fish passage. Photo: Karen Kalvelage

“It painted a pretty horrifying picture of what it’s like to be a fish in the Great Lakes Basin,” says Peter McIntyre, an assistant professor in the center, who led that study. “Seven out of eight river miles are completely inaccessible to the fish.”
Photo: Tom Neeson
Tom Neeson

A new study from the same multidisciplinary team, published April 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes a powerful new model to help decision makers maximize the cost-effectiveness of barrier removal projects that also restore migratory fish habitat. Recent years have seen growing efforts to chip away at the 7,000 dams and 230,000 road crossings that disrupt the basin’s 661 tributaries.
Notes Tom Neeson, a postdoctoral researcher at CFL and lead author of the study, “If you’re going to spend money on barrier removal projects, isn’t it critical to know which projects are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck?” Keep Reading –>

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