Amazon Secrets Help Mississippi’s Singing River
When FWRC scientist, Dr. Sandra Correa, first saw the Pascagoula River, she thought of the rivers back in her home of Colombia, South America. She was reminded of the 4,000-mile-long Amazon River which she studied extensively and began to look for parallels between the two. Both the Pascagoula and the Amazon flood for extended periods of time each year and Correa said those flooded rivers provide unique insight into the fish who must adapt to these changing habitats. Correa is applying her research of the Amazon River to the Pascagoula while focusing on how the flooded forest contributes to maintaining fish productivity. “My ultimate goal is to understand the ecosystem because in a flooded forest in the U.S., you have a huge diversity of animals—everything from crayfish to black bears,” said Correa.
“What I believe is that bottomland hardwood forests are maintaining wildlife diversity. I am starting with the first step—to prove bottomland hardwood forests are maintaining fish.”
Legacy of the Lakes
Dr. Steve Miranda, assistant unit leader of the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Research Unit and FWRC adjunct professor, along with scientists in the Forest and Wildlife Research Center studied the balance between water from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer being used for industry purposes and protecting the area’s oxbow lakes that are being used as water sources. Delta farmers frequently use the water from these lakes as a source for irrigation, yet when a certain amount of water is drawn out, there are negative effects on aquatic health. Miranda and other researchers studied the biotic integrity of oxbow lakes and found that insufficient lake depth causes negative effects in biological and environmental changes. They determined that two meters in depth or less causes negative changes, and now they recommend that people do not draw out water from lakes that are around two meters in depth.
A National Treasure
The Mississippi Delta is scattered with oxbow lakes. These horseshoe-shaped lakes form after a river cuts through a bend to shorten its course. Steve Miranda, FWRC adjunct fisheries professor in the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department, has spent a decade cataloging the biotic integrity of lakes in Mississippi’s Yazoo River Basin. While Miranda’s research focuses on water quality in the present day, he is also interested in what these oxbow lakes tell us about the landscape over 10,000 years ago. Miranda set out to create an inventory of the lakes in the entire Mississippi Alluvial Valley, from Cairo, Ill.
to Baton Rouge, La. He partnered with departmental colleagues and a graduate student and with the MSU Geosystems Research Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This inventory, Miranda said, will help scientists and citizens restore, protect, and preserve a national treasure which is home to almost 200 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, mussels, and fish.