Using Remote Sensing to Assess Alligator Gar Spawning Habitat Suitability in the Lower Mississippi River Floodplain

Thursday, August 21, 2014: 11:30 AM
301B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Yvonne Allen , US Fish and Wildlife Service, Baton Rouge, LA
Floodplains are an important part of large river ecosystems and the frequency, timing, duration, and spatial extent of inundation drive habitat quality in floodplains and determine the suitability of these important habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms.  Managers have traditionally had very limited information to evaluate and quantify the dynamics of this habitat.  Alligator gar use floodplains in the lower Mississippi River for spawning and have been identified by the USFWS Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) as a species of concern in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.  The goal of this project was to develop broadly applicable, landscape level, spatial data related to the extent of inundation and environmental characteristics of flooding at known river stages on the Lower Mississippi River floodplain through analysis of remotely sensed satellite imagery.  Data products derived from remote sensing were coupled with telemetry observations of habitat use and continuous water quality monitoring on the floodplain at the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge (Natchez, MS) to determine the conditions of inundation, habitat and water quality that may be optimal for alligator gar spawning.  Remote sensing products were then used to compare local conditions on the refuge with locations up and down river to identify other locations that may be suitable for alligator gar spawning.