TVA Hosts Biodiversity Partnership Meeting At Tennessee Aquarium

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
TVA and TWRA biologist conducting a stream survey on North Chickamauga Creek
TVA and TWRA biologist conducting a stream survey on North Chickamauga Creek

TVA is hosting the third annual Tennessee River Biodiversity Network Meeting this week at the Tennessee Aquarium.

The event is an annual gathering of conservationists, biologists, environmental leaders and other partners from across the region focused on protecting, enhancing and celebrating the region’s boundless palette of aquatic life.  

"The Tennessee River is home to more aquatic species than any other region in North America and contains one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in the world,” said Shannon O’Quinn, TVA aquatic biologist and event organizer. “When it comes to aquatic biodiversity, there are few places left on this planet that can compete with the Tennessee River.” 

The Tennessee River watershed holds more than 230 species of fish and 100 species of mussels, which is more of both species than any other U.S. watershed. This unique biosphere reflects a clean, healthy river system whose economic value is estimated at $12 billion in a recent University of Tennessee study. 

But this burgeoning biodiversity is not without challenges. With 57 of the fish species considered at-risk, at least 15 on the federal endangered or threatened list, and more than 47 mussel species also at-risk, the network has a lot of work ahead. 

“While we have the most biodiverse watershed in the nation, we also have the highest number of imperiled species of any large basin in North America,” Mr. O’Quinn said. “This is one reason why this network partnership is needed now more than ever before.” 

The Tennessee River Basin Network is a  joint effort organized by TVA, with strong support by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Aquarium. Partnership groups include Federal Agencies & Tribal Nations, State Agencies & Regional Partnerships, and Non-governmental Organizations & Local Community Groups. Simply put, their unifying mission to enhance the health of aquatic resources within the Tennessee River Basin through increased regional collaboration.    

“It’s important to bring stakeholders together to work on solutions to the immense challenges facing the globally significant watersheds of the Southeast,” said Dr. Anna George, the Tennessee Aquarium’s vice president of Conservation Science and Education. “Protecting the river that is cherished across our state requires innovative projects that bring together diverse members of our community.” 

Through collaboration, resource sharing, communications and hard work,  the network has worked to successfully identify and address common issues, and raise awareness. Network-supported projects include numerous fish, mussel, and other species restorations; survey and recovery projects; clean ups; monitoring; clean water camps for kids; ecotourism and many other efforts in several creeks, rivers, lakes and other waterways across the seven-state TVA service.  Click here to see a full list of network projects. 

From 2014 to 2016, TVA provided $2.6 million and remaining network partners provided an additional $2.5 million to also implement a variety of protection/improvement measures which included purchasing conservation easements, establishing riparian stream buffers, removing aquatic stream barriers, creating in-stream habitat, and implementing streambank restoration projects. 

Also at this week’s meeting, TVA will award partner groups or organizations for Education/Outreach to educate the public and children about aquatic resources in the Tennessee Valley; and Science/Management for restoration of aquatic habitat in streams or rivers in the Valley. A $5,000 cash prize award will be donated to the winner’s Environmental Conservation organization of choice. 

"We have come so far in these three years with so many great initiatives as a result of this partnership, and more are being planned for the future,” Mr. O’Quinn said. “There has been some amazing work by these organizations and individuals to protect, conserve and enhance our unique landscape within the Tennessee River Basin.” 

For more information, please visit  the Tennessee River Basin Network website at http://applcc.org/projects/trb.



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