Populations of an endangered fish have been found in new areas of a creek in central Alabama, upstream of where a dam was removed four years ago in an effort to expand the fish's range.
According to al.com, the vermilion darter has been found in Turkey Creek, near the Alabama community of Pinson just northeast of Birmingham. The vermilion darter is a small, brightly colored fish. It's found only in a nine-mile stretch of Turkey Creek and its tributaries in north Jefferson County. The darter needs clear, free-flowing streams to survive and had been blocked from moving upstream by the old dam.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the Freshwater Land Trust to remove the nearly 100-year-old Shadow Lake dam in 2013. This month, they confirmed the darters have expanded their range upstream of the old dam site.
"This project shows what we do really well," says Libba Vaughan, executive director of Freshwater Land Trust. "Our ability to acquire land gives the fish a safe home, and our expertise in stream restoration makes that home bigger and cleaner. It is thrilling to see the proof that these beautiful fish are thriving and their population growing with our efforts."
Endangered species such as the vermilion darter can be the "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to assessing the health of our ecosystems, according to Eric Spadgenske, state coordinator with the Wildlife Service.
"The biological diversity that we enjoy in Alabama is a blessing," Spadgenske says. "It should not be taken for granted."
The Freshwater Land Trust owns and manages the land where the dam used to be, upstream from the popular Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. The darter was also found on a different property in the Turkey Creek watershed. That property was purchased by the land trust in September, adding 80 acres of mixed hardwood forest to the existing preserved land around Turkey Creek owned by the Land Trust and Alabama's Forever Wild land conservation program.
A statement from the Freshwater Land Trust says "Together these conserved lands provide migration corridors for wildlife, including black bears, and intact forest that protects over 30,000 feet of stream full of diverse plants and animals, including the darter."