Walking along the Niagara River, Buffalo, NY, you will notice small fish, Emerald Shiners (Notropis atherinoides), swimming along the shoreline; although small in size, these fish are a vital component of the Niagara River and Lake Erie food web.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District in partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo State College, and SUNY University at Buffalo, have begun the Emerald Shiner Study to improve habitat connectivity for the Emerald Shiner between the Niagara River and Lake Erie, with a focus on the uppermost two miles in the Niagara River Area of Concern.
“Preliminary studies suggest that Emerald Shiner movement in the Upper Niagara River is restricted due to high water flow velocities, hastened by channel constriction and hardened shorelines,” said Andrew Hannes, USACE ecologist. “The study team will be working to plan and design alternatives to enhance Emerald Shiner passage between the Upper Niagara River and Lake Erie.”
Recently USACE Buffalo District team members were in the Black Rock Channel, Buffalo, NY pulling Emerald Shiner samples.
“Using a seine net we pull samples from over 20 locations throughout the Black Rock Canal and Lock system,” said Hannes. “We count and measure the Emerald Shiners and rest of the catch. We will use this information to determine if emerald shiners use this waterway for movement between the Upper Niagara River and Lake Erie.
SUNY University at Buffalo will also provide the study team a unique opportunity to observe the Emerald Shiners in a controlled environment through the use of a flume. The fish will be put in a flume and observed under various hydraulic conditions, and in response to structures designed to provide hydraulic cover.
Once all the data from the study has been collected, it will go through a rigorous validation process by USACE and study team. The data will then be used to compile a comprehensive report, including all elements of the Emerald Shiner Study.
The final product for this study will be a research article intended for peer review. The article will synthesize all other products developed by the USACE team, the contractor, and other project partners.
“The article will detail outcomes of the study, and how to improve habitat connectivity for the Emerald Shiner,” said Hannes. “Information gathered through this study can be expanded outside the study area and improve Emerald Shiner habitat across the Great Lakes. Additionally, because emerald shiners are one of the more athletic fish found in the Upper Niagara River, whatever engineering solutions are implemented to facilitate their movement will likely benefit the movement of other fish species in the Upper Niagara River/Lake Erie community.”