Friday August 26, 2022

Colorado State University

As the need for water for expanding urban areas and agriculture in arid regions grows, interbasin water transfers have become an increasingly common tool to satisfy demand, but their impact on the movement and gene flow of aquatic organisms is poorly understood.

A study out of Colorado State University in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service is one of the first to use genetics to understand how interbasin water transfers affect connectivity between previously isolated watersheds and how that connectivity can impact trout diversity.

The study called “Population genetics reveals bidirectional fish movement across the Continental Divide via an interbasin water transfer” and published in Conservation Genetics used genetic markers to determine if cutthroat trout utilize the Grand Ditch as a movement corridor across the Continental Divide. Grand Ditch, one of 44 interbasin water transfers in Colorado, diverts streams and creeks that flow into the Never Summer Mountains in northern Colorado over the Continental Divide at La Poudre Pass, delivering water to eastern plains farmers and Front Range cities.

“Natural watershed boundaries have historically served as biogeographic bar­riers, preventing movement and gene flow in fish,” said study co-author Yoichiro Kanno, a fish ecologist and associate professor in the Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology department in the CSU Warner College of Natural Resources.

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