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Expansion of Invasive Carp Range in Minnesota: Using Glacial Geomorphology, Digital Elevation Models and Vector Data to Identify Potential Watershed Breaches in ArcGIS

Bevis, Martin

Black, bighead, silver and grass carp (collectively referred to here as invasive carp) present a risk to ecosystem health, functionality, and value in Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams. Invasive carp will be able to access to most, but not all, Minnesota watersheds by swimming along river channels. Some watersheds have low susceptibility to invasive carp migration either because they are not tributaries to the Mississippi River or because fish passage is impeded by dams. Nonetheless, it may be possible for invasive carp to migrate into these otherwise inaccessible watersheds by swimming through hydrologic connections that link watersheds in headwater areas. This situation is referred to as a breach. This project provides insights and methodology for remote identification of potential breach sites using a geographic information system (GIS). Work presented here addresses point 2.5 of the Asian Carp Action Plan for Minnesota (Ad Hoc Asian Carp Task Force, 2011).

To identify potential breaches, sites of known hydrologic connectivity in the headwaters of the Des Moines and Minnesota Rivers were studied using widely-available GIS products (Figure 1). Similar features were identified in the Rush River watershed. In the Des Moines and Minnesota, potential breach sites are associated with glacial landforms. The Rush has lower topographic relief than the Des Moines headwaters and linear glacial depressions are not as well-defined as in the other two watersheds. Accordingly, watershed breaches may occur in a different topographic setting in this watershed: near low-relief prairie potholes, landforms which are known to have temporary surficial hydrologic connections (Rosenberry and Winter, 1997). This project also proposes methods to identify culverts and other infrastructure potentially critical to preventing watershed breaches.

Results underscore the important role hydrologic infrastructure like culverts, ditches and lake level control structures play in preventing breaches. Differences in glacial history and topographic relief in three of Minnesota’s watersheds produce different types of potential breach sites. The workflow described here is relatively simple, and can be used to identify potential breach sites in other Minnesota watersheds by workers with basic ArcGIS skills. However, this is not an exhaustive method: it cannot identify all potential breach sites, and it does not promise that the potential breach sites identified will necessarily become problematic. The success of this method depends on other efforts to verify hydrologic connectivity across watersheds and measure the likelihood that breaches occur at identified sites.

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Prepared in partnership with The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy by the Community Assistantship Program (CAP), which is administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota
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