Kiamichi River in SE Oklahoma

Kiamichi River in SE Oklahoma

The Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma, U.S., is a major tributary to the Red River. The river is known for its high aquatic biodiversity including 86 fish and 31 freshwater mussel species, with three federally listed mussels. The river arises just east of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, flows westward into Oklahoma, then south to join the Red River. It flows through a narrow river valley floor, bordered on both sides by steep slopes of long ridge-and-valley mountains. The watershed covers 4,650 km2 with a relief of 701 m. Mean discharge is 48 m3/s, mean annual precipitation is 110 cm, and mean air temperature is 17 °C. 
 
The Kiamichi River is influenced by two impoundments, mainstem Hugo Lake (158,617 ac-ft) and a tributary impoundment, Sardis Lake (274,330 ac-ft). Together, Sardis and Hugo reservoirs are the water supply for people in 29 Oklahoma counties. Water availability to these reservoirs is predicted to decrease over the next 25 years because of increased drought and increased water demand from an increasing human population. Current and planned inter-basin water transfers will extract hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of freshwater per year out of southeastern Oklahoma, with 220,000 acre-feet/year going to Oklahoma City alone by 2050. Water from these reservoirs is desired by multiple entities (North Texas Water District, Oklahoma City, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations) and is the subject of considerable social conflict. An agreement was reached in August 2106 between the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations which establishes how much water can be taken from Sardis Lake. Largely missing from these discussions are the environmental flow needs of the rich aquatic life in the river. Oklahoma has no in-stream flow policies and Sardis Reservoir has no designated non-consumptive uses. Operation of these reservoirs has negatively impacted aquatic life in recent years. For example, in drought years water has been held in Sardis Lake rather than being released to flow downstream. This has occurred during hot summer months and has led to dewatering of river sections, high water temperatures (>40 °C) and massive mussel mortality and subsequent loss of mussel-provided ecosystem services. 
 
Face-to-face surveys of people in the Kiamichi River watershed found that stakeholders identified habitat for species and water quality as the most important and economically valuable ecosystem services, respectively. The stakeholder interviews also revealed that residents and tourists have observed a decline in multiple ecosystem services associated with decreased flows over the past decade.
 

Led by

Caryn C. Vaughn

Caryn C. Vaughn

Antonio J. Castro

Antonio J. Castro

Carla L. Atkinson

Carla L. Atkinson

Jason Julian

Jason Julian

Site pictures

Publications

Vaughn, Caryn C. 2017. Ecosystem services provided by freshwater mussels. Hydrobiologia. DOI 10.1007/s10750-017-3139-x

Castro, Antonio J., Caryn C. Vaughn, Jason P. Julian and Maria Garcia Llorente. 2016. Social demand of ecosystem services for watershed management. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12379.

Castro, Antonio J., Caryn C. Vaughn, Marina Garcia-Llorente, Jason P. Julian and Carla L. Atkinson. 2016. Willingness to pay for ecosystem services among stakeholder groups in a south-central U.S. watershed with regional conflict. Journal of Water Resource Planning and Management 142:05016006.

Vaughn, Caryn C., Carla L. Atkinson and Jason P. Julian. 2015. Drought-induced changes in flow regimes lead to long-term losses in mussel-provided ecosystem services. Ecology and Evolution 5:1291-1305.

Gates, Kiza K., Caryn C. Vaughn and Jason P. Julian. 2015. Developing environmental flow recommendations for freshwater mussels using the biological traits of species guilds. Freshwater Biology doi:10.1111/fwb.12528.

Castro, Antonio J., Caryn C. Vaughn, Jason P. Julian, Marina Garcia Llorente and Kelsey N. Bowman. 2015. Social perception and supply of ecosystem services – a watershed approach for carbon related ecosystem services. Biodiversity in Ecosystems – Linking Structure and Function. Yueh-Hsin Lo, Juan A. Blanco and Shovonlal Roy, editors.ISBN 978-953-51-2028-5.

Atkinson, Carla L., Jason P. Julian and Caryn C. Vaughn. 2014. Species and function lost: role of drought and land cover structuring stream communities. Biological Conservation 176:30-38.

Allen, Daniel C., Heather S. Galbraith, Caryn C. Vaughn and Daniel E. Spooner. 2013. A tale of two rivers: implications of water management practices for mussel biodiversity outcomes during droughts. Ambio 42:881-891.

Heather S. Galbraith, Daniel E. Spooner, Caryn C. Vaughn. 2010. Synergistic effects of regional climate patterns and local water management on freshwater mussel communities. Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 1175–1183