Andrew Harbicht recently started a postdoc within the NRRV-research group at Karlstad University. Here he briefly presents his background and what he plans to do during his postdoc:

”Hello, my name is Andrew Harbicht and I’m one of the new Post-Docs to have joined the NRRV. My research experience has primarily been focused on salmonids (rainbow trout, brook charr, and Atlantic salmon) and extends from fisheries modeling to population genetics and radio telemetry. I moved to Karlstad from Montreal, Canada, where I conducted my Ph.D. at Concordia University, working together with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Atlantic salmon restoration in Lake Champlain. During that time we investigated the impacts of hatchery rearing and release techniques on the lifetime survival and dispersal rates of landlocked salmon and investigated the impact of a thiamine deficiency on the migratory capabilities of returning spawners.

My work with this group will focus on the implications of migratory barriers for longitudinal connectivity among Atlantic salmon populations in the Baltic Sea. With the ever-increasing efficiency of new hydroelectric turbines and the costs associated with maintaining outdated installations, more and more energy producers are opting to remove older facilities to focus their efforts on newer structures. The removal of such aging dams and other barriers to migration within rivers is undoubtedly a positive step for river connectivity, though exactly what changes will occur as a result of such actions is simply unknown in many situations. In fact, over the short term, the removal of barriers can cause as many changes as initial installation. In other situations, maintaining instream infrastructure may be the best option available to energy producer. In which case, including structures that permit fish passage is important, but which type of structure is best suited to the job isn’t always clear. Where several options exist, managers need access to accurate information to assist in their decision-making process.

With my project, I’ll be looking at the impact of removing a partial barrier to migration on the movement patterns of Atlantic salmon, as well as the river ecosystem itself in the Mörrumsån river in southern Sweden. Our holistic approach will monitor all levels of the ecosystem, from the mechanisms that shape river terrain (sedimentation) to the smallest bacteria (decomposition) and the largest predators (fish), as well as all things in between (food-webs). I will also be investigating the genetic consequences of changes in movement patterns that result from the removal of a hydroelectric plant. In another river, the river Emån, we’ll be assessing the performance of a new type of fish lift, and Archimedes screw, which permits upstream and downstream passage, all the while producing its own energy. If found to be effective, such devices could greatly improve connectivity in fragmented river landscapes.”

Andrew Harbicht (left) and William Ardren (right) releasing tagged fish in the Boquet River, a  tributary to Lake Champlain.

Andrew Harbicht tracking radio tagged Atlantic salmon.

The River Daugava flows through Russia, Belarus and Latvia and empties in to Gulf of Riga in the Baltic sea. Historically the river hosted an important Atlantic salmon population. Since the construction of large dams in the mid-20th century, the salmon has lost access to their historical spawning grounds and only a hatchery supported, sea ranched population remains. Salmon, has, however persisted as a cultural, and locally economically, important fish, and now the idea of restoring wild salmon to the River Daugava system is gaining followers.

A trap and transport solution – based on hatchery fish (that is, salmon released in the river as smolts, now returning to spawn) and/or release of eggs and fry – have been discussed as an initial solution. Here, returning spawners would be trapped, transported upstream dams blocking their migration, and released to continue their spawning migration. To study the potential of trapping and transporting returning hatchery fish Karlstad University, the Institute for Environmental Solutions and Latvenergo, are currently studying the spawning migration of trap and transported salmon spawners in the River Daugava. The spawners, caught by the commercial fishery, have been equipped the radiotransmitters and transported upstream of two dams and released in the River Ogre, a tributary to River Daugava. Now, their movements in the river are being tracked using a stationary automatic receiver and manual tracking. Fish are still moving in the river, but preliminary results show some fish gathering at potential spawning grounds, whereas others have fallen behind the downstream dam.

The Latvian tv show ”Makšķerē ar Olti” made a short documentary, mainly in Latvian but with informative images, about the study. It is available online here.

In a pilot-study, Oscar Askling studied salmon spawning and fallback behavior in the River Daugava 2014. Results of this study is available in the Master thesis: A telemetry study for reintroducing wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in the Daugava and Ogre Rivers, Latvia”.

Tagging an Atlantic salmon with an external radiotransmitter. (Photo: Marta Dievina)

Releasing a tagged salmon in the River Ogre, a tributary to River Daugava. (Photo: From the documentary by Nomad.)

Tracking radiotagged salmon in River Ogre, a tributary to River Daugava.

The tagging crew. From left, Daniel Nyqvist, Linda Buholce, Matiss Zagars, Marta Dievina, Marta Utane and Armands Roze repressenting Institute for Environmental Solutions, Latvenergo and Karlstad University.

Kristine Lund Bjørnås recently started a licentiate position within the NRRV-research group at Karlstad University. Here she briefly presents her background and what she plans to do during her licentiate:

”Hello! My name is Kristine Lund Bjørnås and I recently started a licentiate degree (which is ½ a PhD) within the NRRV group at Karlstad University. Like Klarälven I started in Norway before I slowly found my way to Karlstad. I grew up in a town called Melhus in Mid-Norway, with one of the country’s best salmon rivers – Gaula – as a neighbour. My interest in anadromous salmonid conservation arose naturally. I have since lived and studied in Trondheim, Ås, Reykjavík, Steinkjer, and Lund before moving to Värmland.

Before Kristine Lund Bjørnås started her licentiate position she volunteered at a bird ringing station in Southern Norway. Here they have caught and ringed a young male sparrowhawk.

In my licentiate project, I am studying the spatial ecology of brown trout in local streams. My goal is to pinpoint the most cost-effective and informative method to predict living conditions for juveniles under different flow regimes and after river restoration measures. Thinking back to my hometown river system, the main focus is on the adults of the anadromous trout populations and on their conditions for spawning. The conditions for juveniles is often overlooked, but for efficient conservation of these threatened populations, we need to consider both. Which brings me back to my project. I will test if it is possible to predict the distribution, density, and growth of juveniles using habitat and fitness-based models of increasing complexity. The simplest models use physical habitat and hydrology to estimate usable area of a stream section; the most complex models – so-called drift-foraging or net energy intake models – also incorporate food (drifting insects) and foraging theory. By adding spatial and temporal variations in drift concentration given a flow, the models can be made more realistic – although a model will always be a simplification of the entire complexity of the natural world. I am sure to make mistakes, but to avoid repeating previous ones, I am doing a review of studies attempting to model drift- foraging in streams. I will start my main fieldwork in the late spring of 2018. There will be opportunities to join in on that, so stay tuned!

Autumn field survey in Örebro county. Kristine Lund Bjørnås sampling with visiting professor Kurt Fausch in the background. Photo: Carola Gutfreund.

I did my Master in Conservation Biology at Lund University. I am very interested in the broad societal and ethical discussions that arise in conservation biology. I wrote my thesis on spatial variations and potential drivers of population trends of birds breeding along the Swedish coast – in general, “warm-adapted” bird species (measured in species temperature index STI) have increased while “cold-adapted” species have declined over the last 27 years.”

Fiskvandring i Nianån

Posted by Daniel Nyqvist | Dam removal

Som en del av en större studie på ekologiska effekter av dammutrivning studerar NRRV, tillsammans med Hudiksvalls kommun, fiskvandring i Nianån, Hälsingland. I somras revs en kraftverksdamm, belägen 70 m från åns mynning, ut och vi studerar nu vandrande fisk i vattendraget. Vi har under hösten fångat och märkt både öring och flodnejonöga, och hopppas att följa upp med studier av vårvandrande fisk – såsom abborre, mört och id – under våren. Tidigare tog det stopp redan efter 70 m, men hur beter sig fisken i den nya situationen?

Öring vandrar under hösten upp i Nianån för att leka. Lekvandrande öring har fångats med hjälp av olika ryssjor i åns mynning och märkts med radiosändare. Vi har sedan kunnat följa dess rörelser i ån med hjälp av både manuell pejlning och fasta loggerstationer. Senare ska via analysera öringsens lekvandring i ån, bland annat hur den utforskar området uppströms den nyss utrivna dammen.

Flodnejonögon vandrar upp i ån på hösten, övervintrar i vattendraget och leker under den kommande våren. Vi fångar nejonögonen med så kallade nättingfällor vid åns mynning och märker dem med PIT-tags (små märken utan batteri som aktiveras när de kommer i närheten av en antenn, de fungerar enligt samma princip som många passerkort). Vi släpper sedan ut dem nedströms fällorna och genom att återfånga en del av de märkta nejonögonen kan vi få en bild av mängden nejonögon i ån. Vi har dessutom fällor uppströms den utrivna dammen, och kommer på så sätt undersöka huruvida nejonögonen utforskar dess områden. Genom att under vintern pejla nejonögonen manuellt kan vi också undersöka var i ån de övervintrar.

Förutom att studera fiskens beteende är vi också intresserade av vidare ekologiska frågor såsom hur fisksamhället, vegetationen och födoväven förändras som ett resultat av dammutrivningen.

I går visade Mitt i Naturen på SVT ett inslag om dammutrivningen i Nianån. I inslaget visas bilder från dammutrivningen och Johan Andreasson, från Hudiksvalls kommun, intevjuas om utrivningens bakgrund och målsättning. Se reportaget här.

Jessica Dolk, Karlstads universitet, och Johan Andreasson, Hudiksvalls kommun, märker en öring. I bakgrunden syns en ryssjorna som fångar den lekvandrande öringen.

Den radiomärkta öringens rörelser i ån övervakas med fasta loggerstationer.

Flodnejonögon fångas i en s.k nättingfälla.

Jessica Dolk vittjar en nättingfälla.

Ett flodnejonöga väntar på att märkas.

Welcome to NRRV: Richard Durtsche

Posted by Daniel Nyqvist | Nyheter

Richard Durtsche recently joined the NRRV-research group as a visiting professor from Northern Kentucky University, USA. Here he presents his background and some of his planned work at Karlstad University:

Richard Durtsche, visiting professor at Karlstad University.

My name is Richard Durtsche, and I am a visiting professor joining the Kau River Ecology and Management Research Group from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) where I am a Professor of Biological Sciences, the Director of the NKU Research and Education Field Station, and Curator of Vertebrate Collections. I am a physiological ecologist and herpetologist with research interests in the feeding ecology, nutrition, and physiology of amphibians, reptiles, and fish along with related impacts of invasive species; niche occupancy; and bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems. I am currently on a one-year sabbatical, and my goals include professional development and exploring new research focused on modeling of fish drift-feeding and the ecophysiology of stream fishes related to my previous work on the foraging ecology and metabolism in reptiles and amphibians. This program will also strengthen the collaboration of our recently established exchange program that now exists between NKU and Kau.

My research goals are to investigate new methodologies in foraging ecology and ecological modeling as a collaborator in studies of the eco-physiology of drift feeding and energetics in Salmonid fish (trout, salmon, etc.), and potential changes in their metabolism related to thermal changes (potential effects of climate change) during development. The first part of these investigations will focus on the increased accuracy in measurements of the mass for three different macroinvertebrate (mayfly, caddisfly, and stonefly) prey types of these fish determined from digital images. These image measurements will then be combined with caloric content measures of these prey to provide an energetic basis of these food sources. The results will then be used to 1) improve theoretical models of the energetics and drift feeding by these fish for the group’s on-going studies on stream fish ecology and management, and 2) provide a basis for using digital images, potentially from a smart device, for enhanced methods and more rapid measures to understanding how different foods can influence fish distributions, their growth and abundance. The second part of this investigation will focus on the effects elevated environmental temperature (i.e., climate change) has on the metabolism of developing fish. By evaluating fish raised at different temperatures from the same cohort of eggs, we will be able to determine the plasticity (epigenetic capacity) of these northern climate fish to altered thermal environments. Measuring metabolic capacities is one of the best ways to determine the fitness of these fish and if they have the capacity to deal with climate change.”

Tomorrow, 24 October, Richard Durtsche will give a seminar titled ”Amphibians, Wetland Aquatic Ecosystems, and the Impact of Invasive Plants”. The seminar will be given at 13:15 in room 5F416 at Karlstad University.

Kraftag ål är ett samarbete mellan Vattenkraftföretagen och Havs- och vattenmyndigheten, och utgörs av åtgärder men även forsknings- och utvecklingsinsatser för att öka ålens framgång i utbyggda vattendrag. Kraftag åls slutseminarium arrangeras den 21 November i Stockholm, och organisatörerna bjuder in till att ”ta del av ny kunskap från utvecklingsprojekt och hör om frivilliga åtgärder som gjorts för ålen i vattendrag och vid kusten”. Seminariets presentationer behandlar bland annat fysiska avledare för nedströmsvandrande fisk, för ålen skonsam kraftverksdrift, möjligheter att övervaka ålvandringen, transporter av blankål och utsättning av ålyngel. Läs seminariets hela program, och anmäl dig, här: www.energiforsk.se/konferenser/krafttag-al/#

Tomorrow, 26 September, Rachel Bowes, postdoctoral researcher at Karlstad University, will give a seminar on ”Temporally analyzing river food webs”. The seminar will be given at 13:15 in room 5F416 at Karlstad University. Everyone is welcome to attend the seminar.

Rachel Bowes and Denis Lefage collect samples for stable isotope analysis. Stable isotope analysis in stream ecology will be one topic of the course.

On 10-13 October, the PhD-course ”Aquatic ecology and land-water interactions” will be given at Karlstad University. Invited lecturers and Karlstad University researchers will give talks on a range of freshwater ecology topics, including:

  • Fish behavior
  • Fish migration
  • Stable isotopes
  • Winter ecology
  • Conservation management
  • Stream-riparian interactions
  • Longitudinal connectivity and fish passage
  • Freshwater mussel-fish interactions
  • Geographical information systems in fisheries science.

Participants will also be given the opportunity to present their ongoing research, and to visit the aquaria facilities at the university. Lecturers include, Kurt Fausch, Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley (over distance), Jörgen Johnsson, Johan Höjesjö, Nicolas LarrangaRachel Bowes, Larry Greenberg, John Piccolo, and Olle Calles. Presenting students will be rewarded with 1.5 ETCS. The course is free to attend but requires registration. Participants from IRSAE-institutions may be partially reimbursed for travel and accommodation. For questions and registration, email John Piccolo at john.piccolo@kau.se.

A thick shelled river mussel (Unio crassus).

Lea SchneiderAnders Nilsson, and Martin Österling from Karlstad University, and Johan Höjesjö from University of Gothenburg, recently published the scientific article ”Local adaptation studies and conservation: Parasite–host interactions between the endangered freshwater mussel Unio crassus and its host fish in Aquatic Conservation. In the article the authors present a study on thick shelled river mussels (Unio crassus) and their interaction with potential host fishes originating from the same or a different river than the individual mussels. In the abstract they write:

”1. Parasite–host interactions can involve strong reciprocal selection pressure, and may lead to locally adapted specializations. The highly threatened unionoid mussels are temporary parasites on fish, but local adaptation has not yet been investigated for many species.

2. Patterns of local adaptation of one of Europe’s most threatened unionoids, the thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) were investigated. Eurasian minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus) from two rivers (separate drainage areas) were cross-infested in the laboratory with sympatric and allopatric mussel larvae, while bullheads (Cottus gobio), inhabiting only one of the rivers, were infested with sympatric or allopatric mussel larvae. Larval encystment, juvenile mussel excystment and survival were measured.

3. For one river, but not the other, juvenile excystment from P. phoxinus was highest when infested with sympatric mussels. The opposite pattern was found for C. gobio in this river, where juvenile excystment and post-parasitic juvenile survival from allopatric C. gobio were highest. The results thus cannot confirm local adaptation of U. crassus to P. phoxinus in the study rivers, as excystment was not consistently higher in all sympatric mussel–host combinations, whereas there were potential maladaptive signs of U. crassus in relation to C. gobio. There was no loss of encysted larvae 3 days after infestation until juvenile excystment. Most juveniles were excysted between 17 and 29 days after infestation, and the numbers of excysted juveniles increased with fish size.

4. The results have implications for parasite–host ecology and conservation management with regard to unionoid propagation and re-introduction. This includes the need to (1) test suitability and adaptation patterns between U. crassus and multiple host fish species, (2) evaluate the suitability of certain unionoids and host fish strains after more than 3 days, and (3) determine whether large fish produce more juvenile mussels than smaller fish.”

Access the paper here: ”Local adaptation studies and conservation: Parasite–host interactions between the endangered freshwater mussel Unio crassus and its host fish”, or email any of the authors.

I en rapport, och vid ett seminarium på måndag i Arlanda, presenterar Karlstads universitet nu resultaten från ett femårigt forskningsprojekt som undersökt möjligheter till att öka överlevnaden hos nedströmsvandrande laxfisk i Klarälven. I ett pressmeddelande i anslutning till seminariet skriver universitetet tillsammans med Fortum:

Sedan 1930-talet har lekvandrande lax och öring årligen infångats vid första vandringshindret i älven och åkt lastbil förbi den utbyggda delen för att släppas av och möjliggöra naturlig lek på platser ovanför det åttonde kraftverket, Edsforsen. Parallellt sker kompensationsutsättningar av odlad laxfisk nedströms det första vandringshindret för att möjliggöra ett fiske efter lax och öring i Vänern. Den vilda laxfisken skyddas samtidigt genom fredningsbestämmelser.

Karlstad universitet och Fortum har bedrivit forskningssamarbete om lax och öring i Klarälven under många år. Den kumulativa dödligheten hos ung lax under nedströmsvandring och kraftverkspassager har visat sig vara hög. Bland de resultat som redovisas från det senaste projektet påvisades en ännu högre dödlighet för utlekt fisk, där endast enstaka märkta utlekta laxar framgångsrikt passerade alla dammar. Projektet – som riktat in sig på att ge underlag för att förbättra just överlevnaden för laxungar och utlekt lax på vägen från lek – visar också att spill vid kraftverken har stor betydelse för den utlekta laxens passagemöjligheter. Liknande resultat inhämtades, som en del av projektet, för ung lax i Winooski River i USA.

– Kraftverken utgör de facto vandringshinder för fisken, både uppströms och nedströms. I detta forskningsprojekt har vi fokuserat på att få kunskap om laxens vandringsbeteende för att kunna förbättra möjligheterna för fiskens nedströmsvandring. Något som tidigare varit eftersatt, inte bara i Klarälven utan på många platser i världen, säger projektledaren Larry Greenberg på Karlstads universitet.

Projektet föreslår att en ökad överlevnad bland nedströmsvandrande laxfisk skulle kunna åstadkommas genom att fisken leds av från Edsforsens turbinintag och samlas upp för transport förbi kraftverken och sätts ut nedströms Forshaga kraftverk. Eftersom det finns ytterst få exempel på avledare vid kraftverk av Edsforsens storlek och geografiska placering, är samtliga studerade åtgärdsalternativ att betrakta som experimentella och kommer att kräva utvärderingar och modifieringar under en försöksperiod som bör spänna över flera år. Av de sex olika åtgärdsförslag som studerats förordas två lösningar med s k. beta-avledare. Alternativet beräknas kosta ca. 130 milj kr som engångskostnad samt ca. 8,5 milj kr i årliga löpande kostnader.

– Det är viktigt att hitta rätt lösning för rätt vattendrag. Ett exempel på detta är just Klarälven – ett vattendrag med åtta vattenkraftverk från första vandringshinder upp till laxens kvarvarande lek- och uppväxtområden – där vi under senare tid sett en positiv trend för den unika populationen av Klarälvslax. Projektets resultat har nu gett oss viktig kunskap om hur laxstammen i Klarälven ytterligare kan stärkas, säger Marco Blixt som är fiskeansvarig på Fortum.

Av de cirka 8,3 miljoner kr som satsades i projektet mellan år 2012 och 2016 kommer 1,1 miljoner kr från Karlstads universitet, 2 miljoner kr från det EU-finansierade interregprojektet ”Vänerlaxens fria gång” samt ca 5,2 miljoner kr från Fortum: hälften från interna forskningsanslag och hälften från Fortums miljöfond, som finansieras genom försäljningen av Bra miljömärkt el.”

Rapporten finns tillgänglig online här: Förbättrad nedströmspassage för vild laxfisk i Klarälven