Did you know the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been conducting standardized fish, vegetation and water quality sampling of the Mississippi River annually for nearly 30 years? Since 1990, the Lake City field station of the Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) program has monitored Pool 4 of the Upper Mississippi River in an effort to protect one of the nation’s most unique natural resources. In this inaugural newsletter, we’d like to introduce you to our program and staff, and invite you to connect with us if you need information or data on the Mississippi River.
History of the Program
In the Water Resource Development Act of 1986, the US Congress declared the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) to be a “nationally significant ecosystem and nationally significant commercial navigation system.” This lead to the creation of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program, the world’s first comprehensive program that dealt with ecosystem restoration, scientific research, and monitoring on a large river system. Since its inception, the UMRR Program has been recognized as the most important effort in ensuring the river’s health and viability. The program consists of two components, Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Projects, and Long Term Resource Monitoring.
Nearly all scientific research and monitoring is conducted by the Long Term Resource Monitoring element. LTRM is funded and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and implemented by the U.S. Geological Survery, in cooperation with the five UMRS states (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin). Monitoring is conducted at six different field stations, including one located on the Illinois River and one in the unimpounded reach of the Mississippi River below St. Louis. Lake City, MN is home to the northernmost field station and is operated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, under the Ecological and Water Resources division. All of the monitoring for the Lake City field station takes place in Pool 4 of the Mississippi River between Lock and Dam 3 in Redwing, MN and Lock and Dam 4 in Alma, WI. The overall objective of the LTRM is to assess and detect change in the health and resilience of the UMRS ecosystem by monitoring three key ecological components: fish, vegetation and water quality.
The Upper Mississippi River fishery is historically diverse in both recreational and commercial use. Adverse trends in the fish community could have a drastic effect on the region’s economy. The fish component was put in place to monitor and report trends in the fish populations and communities. Fish sampling is completed during three time periods from June to October. A variety of methods are employed including electrofishing, trawling, large and small fyke netting, and large and small hoop netting. Over the history of the program, nearly 1.42 million fish consisting of 74 different species have been sampled in Pool 4.
Since the introduction of locks and dams to the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in the 1930s, backwaters have expanded and allowed aquatic vegetation to flourish. Aquatic vegetation is a critical part of UMR ecosystem because it provides food, areas to spawn, and shelter for fish, invertebrates and other wildlife. The objective of vegetation monitoring is to determine composition, frequency of occurrence and relative abundance of all submersed, floating, and emergent plants. Approximately 450 sites are sampled during the vegetation growing season from early June to late August.
The water quality component’s main purpose is to monitor and report status and trends of the water quality in the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Water quality variables that relate closely to ecosystem function and habitat quality are collected at every sampling site. Water quality monitoring utilizes two types of sampling, fixed and stratified random sampling. Fixed sampling is conducted at fifteen permanent sites in Pool 4 throughout the year and stratified random sampling consisted of sampling one hundred and thirty-five sites quarterly.