Topeka shiner: our prairie home companion in need of some saving — The Environmental Issue

Topeka shiner

(Notropis topeka)

The Environmental Issue: Habitat Degradation.

The Topeka shiner was federally listed under Endangered Species Act on December 15th, 1998 due to dramatic population decline. The major threats to shiners are land conversion and water reallocation that degrade physical and biological characteristics of the streams they inhabit. The species has been extirpated from about 80 percent of its historical range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) claims that the largest contributors to the habitat degradation are stream channelization and construction of small impoundments (or dams) along with the introduction of nonnative predator game fish species like bass and northern pike, which will feed on Topeka shiners. Rivers and other waterways are impounded to provide services like a fresh water supply, flood control, and energy from hydropower. Impoundments cause sediment build up and habitat fragmentation, separating the Topeka shiner from other populations and the other fish species they nest with. Additionally, detrimental land practices, such as cultivation, clearcut logging, building projects, and intensive, continuous grazing, increase the amount of silt and sediment in streams thus lowering water quality and the water level. Although this fish is fairly resilient to short-term stresses, it is still vulnerable to these permanent alterations in habitat resulting in reduced water quality and increased water temperature that are common to agriculturally-dominated regions.

Today, this species has an increasingly restricted range and it is expected that the impacts of climate change are only going to work synergistically with human-induced habitat destruction. In order to ensure the success of this species in the future, Iowa and Minnesota are working on projects to restore oxbow ponds and Missouri is working to reintroduce the species. As of 2004, the USFWS designated 836 miles of stream in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska as critical habitat for the protection of the Topeka shiner. The critical habitat was supposed to encompass all of the watersheds in which the shiners were known to occur in, however scientists have now found them outside of these habitats as well.

A Topeka shiner reintroduction project

The USFWS is encouraging people with private land and state governments to maintain high quality pools in prairie streams as well as work to monitor and control land and water use practices upstream.

The law makes it illegal for anyone to take Topeka shiners without special grant permission including those doing land and stream conversion on their own property.

In 2016, Neosho, Missouri announced that they had a successful breeding and introduction at a national fish hatchery with hopefully more successful projects to come. Many states also have plans to follow in their footsteps.

Pregnant Topeka shiner

If you would like to check out more animals on the Endangered Species List on your own, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of Threaten/Endangered Species in the U.S. and Foreign Countries.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Threatened and Endangered Species. Questions and Answers about the Topeda Shiner in Minnesota. Department of the Interior. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Online] 2016 (accessed Mar 28, 2017).

NatureServe. 2014. Notropis topeka (Topeka shiner). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. [Online] 2014 (accessed Mar 28, 2017).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Threatened and Endangered Species. Topeka Shiner (Notropis topeka). Department of the Interior. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Online] 2017 (accessed Mar 28, 2017).

Image 1: Tomelleri, J. Topeka Shiner. (accessed Mar 28, 2017).

Image 2: Rothert, J. 36-07-2016.jpg. (accessed Mar 28, 2017)

Image 3: MDC Staff. 5tshiner.jpg - Topeka Shiner Release. (accessed Mar 31, 2017).

Image 4: Morrison, L. Fish Nurseries - Topeka shiner. (accessed Mar 31, 2017).

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