Wednesday, February 08, 2017Register
 Federally Threatened and Endangered Fishes, Birds and Plants of the Roswell Aquifer

Pecos Bluntnose Shiner
Notropis simus pecosensis

[Photo: David L. Rogowski, New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish]
[Photo: David L. Rogowski, New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish]

Description: The Pecos bluntnose shiner is a moderately-sized minnow of the Notropis or "eastern shiner" genus in the Cyprinidae family. The Pecos bluntnose shiner is one of two subspecies, the other being the extinct Rio Grande bluntnose shiner. It has a robust body, growing to a maximum length of 3.5 inches (9 cm), but on average, 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) long. Its dorsal surface is a gray to greenish-brown color with a silvery white underbelly. A wide silver band extends from the pectoral girdle to the base of the caudal fin. It has a rounded, blunt-looking snout and a large subterminal (downturned) mouth. The eyes are relatively small and scales are outlined with melanophores (pigmented cells), giving it a latticed appearance.

Life History: The Pecos bluntnose shiner spawns from May through September utilizing external fertilization. Spawning can occur several times during that period, occurring each time there are elevated stream flows from spring runoff and storm events. These spikes in streamflow cue the female to release her eggs into the water column, where they are immediately fertilized by the males. The fertilized eggs drift with the current for the next 24-48 hours until hatching. The larvae then drift for another 4-8 days before finding low velocity waters (shorelines and backwaters) where they remain as juveniles. Pecos bluntnose shiners can live up to 3 years in the wild, reaching sexual maturity after a year. The young feed on zooplankton and small insects and adults feed on small, aquatic macroinvertebrates, mainly insects.

Habitat: The Pecos bluntnose shiner is predominantly associated with sand and gravel substrates, in wide, shallow (7-16 inches [17-41 cm]) stream runs and pools. Larger individuals reside in higher velocity waters (>40cm/second), while young larvae and juveniles are associated with slower velocity water, backwaters, and embayments.

Distribution: The subspecies Notropis simus pecosensis is endemic to the Pecos River in New Mexico from Santa Rosa (Guadalupe County) down to the Major Johnson Springs (now inundated by Brantley Reservoir, north of Carlsbad). The current population exists in three counties in New Mexico: De Baca, Chaves, and Eddy counties. The species is found in the Pecos River from the US 60 Highway Bridge near Fort Sumner down to the inflow for the Brantley Reservoir and most commonly from the stretch between Old Fort State Park down to Roswell.

Critical habitat for this species has been determined (1987). The map below depicts the critical habitat for this species, as designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

NOTE: No warranty is given, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of these data. Data do no represent a legal description of the critical habitat boundary; refer to the textual description in the appropriate final rule for this species as published in the Federal Register.

Map of Federally Designated Critical Habitat for the Pecos bluntnose shiner (Notropis simus pecosensis) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US FWS data]

Map of Federally Designated Critical Habitat for the Pecos bluntnose shiner (Notropis simus pecosensis) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US FWS data]. Click on map for larger image.

Status: The Pecos bluntnose shiner is a state (1976) and federally (1987) listed threatened species. This species maintained steady populations since its listing but began to decline in 2002 in response to drought and low flows associated with reservoir management (suppression of regular flow). Because this species requires significant increases in streamflow to induce spawning, impoundments of the Pecos River represent the biggest threat to this species. Additionally, due to the reservoirs located along the Pecos River, regulated flows are not sufficient to maintain the required minimum stream flow to maintain suitable habitat during drought years. Large block releases of water from the reservoir in the summer flush out eggs and larvae. As a result, eggs and larvae are deposited in stream reaches with unsuitable habitat; putting the shiner population at risk . Regulation of reservoir releases and increased precipitation from 2006-2007 resulted in population growth for this species. Flow modification and invasive species intrusion by plant species such as tamarisk (Tamarix pentandra) have also led to modified river channel formations. Predation by native catfish and nonnative white bass (Morone chrysops) during low-flow periods may also contribute to the species' decline. Similarly, the Arkansas river shiner (Notropis girardi) and plains minnow (Hybognathus placitus) may compete with Pecos bluntnose shiner populations, especially during low flow periods.

Resources:

New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish, Threatened and Endangered Fishes of New Mexico

US Fish and Wildlife, Pecos Bluntnose Shiner Recovery Plan

Pecos Gambusia
Gambusia nobilis

[Photo: Dave Schleser, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept]
[Photo: Dave Schleser, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept]

Description: The Pecos gambusia is a small, freshwater fish in the Poeciliidae family. The Poeclid family is sexually dimorphic with females larger than males. Male Pecos gambusia also have a prominent gonopodium (male sex organ used for internal fertilization of female) in place of their anal fin. Pecos gambusia are typically 1.25-2.4 inches (3.2-6.0 cm) long and weigh 0.4-2.5 grams. They are a light reddish brown color with a dark lateral stripe. They have a superior mouth (upturned) and a dorsally flattened head. Females have a black area around the base of the anal fin. The Pecos gambusia is very similar in appearance to the closely related Big Bend gambusia (Gambusia geiseri) and Western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis).

Life History: The Pecos gambusia breeds via internal fertilization using a gonopodium. Female Pecos gambusia may spawn many times a year, on average, every 52 days, and produce live young (weighing 35-50 mg) with an average brood size of 38. The Pecos gambusia is a surface forager and is most active at night when it can feed on insects and amphipods that land on the water's surface. The Pecos gambusia is an opportunistic carnivore and will feed on any living prey of suitable size.

Habitat: The Pecos gambusia is found in gypsum sinkholes, springs and spring runs. The waters they occupy are generally thermally stable (21-30 degrees C [70-86 degrees F]) with salinity ranging from 1.6-12 parts per thousand (ppt) (Note: The Blue Spring population occupies areas with 0.1 ppt), and dissolved oxygen ranging from 5-10 mg/L. It lives at depths of 1-8 meters and occupies both slow-moving and fast-moving waters. The Pecos gambusia uses aquatic vegetation for cover and generally is associated with overhanging banks or submerged cliffs.

Distribution: Gambusia nobilis was historically known from the Pecos River basin in New Mexico and Texas. In western Texas the Pecos gambusia lives in the Toyah Creek drainage in four springs and in two reaches of Leon Creek (Jeff Davis and Pecos counties). In New Mexico, the Pecos gambusia occurs in two main locations in Chaves County: springs and sinkholes on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Blue Spring and its outflow.

Critical habitat for this species has not been determined.The map below depicts the areas in or near the Roswell aquifer where this species has been reported (USFWS).

 Map of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Habitat for Populations of the Pecos gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Map of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Habitat for Populations of the Pecos gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image.  

Status: The Pecos gambusia is a state (1975) and federally (1970) listed endangered species. This species is common to abundant within its habitat, although was extirpated from Comanche Springs in west Texas in the 1950s when the spring dried up. Threats to this species in the Roswell Aquifer include groundwater pumping, channel dredging (at Blue Spring), nonnative predators such as the green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), and hybridization with the western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and largespring gambusia (Gambusia geiseri).

Resources:

New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish, Threatened and Endangered Fishes of New Mexico

US Fish and Wildlife, Pecos Gambusia Recovery Plan

Least Tern
Sterna antillarum

[Photo: US Fish and Wildlife]
[Photo: US Fish and Wildlife]

Description: The interior least tern is an inland susbspecies of the least tern, the smallest of the North American terns. The least tern is 8-10 inches (21-24 cm) long with a short, forked tail and a 20 inch (51 cm) wingspan. Adult least terns are light gray on their upper parts, white underneath, with a white forehead and a black-capped crown. The legs and bill are yellow, with the bill noticeably black at the tip. Juveniles of this species (<1 year in age) have darker plumage, a dark bill and dark eye stripes in contrast to a white head. Hatchlings are yellowish with brown mottling. Eggs are buff-colored and speckled or streaked with brownish markings. The call of the least tern sounds like "zeep," "zreep," and "kit."

Life History: Least terns typically nest in large colonies when enough habitat is available. least terns begin breeding from 2-3 years of age. The breeding season of the interior (inland North America) population of the least tern extends from April to August, with least terns arriving in New Mexico in early May. Courtship lasts for 2-3 weeks. Only one brood is reared per season with a typical clutch size of 2-3 eggs and average annual productivity of 0.5. Eggs are incubated for about 3 weeks with both parents involved in incubation. Least terns are capable of living up to 20 years in the wild. Least terns feed on small fish (0.8-3.5 in. [2-9 cm]) which swim near the surface. Least terns fly 3-30 feet (1-10 m) above the water and capture fish by diving into the top 6 inches (15 cm) of water.

Habitat: The interior least tern is a subspecies of least tern that nests along inland rivers, rather than along the coast. Interior least tern habitat consists of sand, shell, or gravel beaches, islands, sandbars and salt flats associated with rivers, and emergent wetlands. They also use man made habitats such as gravel pits, ash piles, reservoirs shorelines, etc. Nests are typically 30 feet (10 m) apart in shallow depressions in open, sandy, or gravelly areas, often at higher elevations, away from the water's edge.

Distribution: Sterna antillarum athalassos is found along the Mississippi, Red, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Rio Grande River (including the Pecos River) systems (from Indiana in the north, west to Colorado and south to Mexico). The interior least tern winters along the Central and South American coasts. In New Mexico the only population of interior least terns is found at or near the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (BLNWR) in Chaves County. In BLNWR they have been known to commonly nest in Unit 16 and around Bitter Lake.

Critical habitat for this subspecies has not been designated. The map below depicts the areas in or adjacent to the Roswell aquifer where this species has been reported (USFWS). 

Map of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Habitat for Populations of the Interior Least Tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Map of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Habitat for Populations of the Interior Least Tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image.  

Status: The interior least tern is a state (1976) and federally (1985) listed endangered species. There is some confusion as to whether the interior population of the least tern is in fact a distinct subspecies of least tern (Sterna antillarum). Due to this taxonomic ambiguity, the USFWS listed the "interior population" of Sterna antillarum as endangered as opposed to listing the subspecies (Sterna antillarum athalassos). The greatest threat to the interior least tern is the alteration of habitat due to flow modification. Construction of reservoirs has reduced the variability of historic flooding, which served to scour vegetation, providing open sandbar habitat. Encroachment by vegetation has drastically reduced viable sandbar habitat. Reservoir releases can be detrimental to tern nesting sites by flooding nests and potential nesting areas. BLNWR provides habitat to a stable population of several breeding pairs of interior least terns.

Resources:

Colorado Division of Wildlife

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

New Mexico Partners in Flight

Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept

US Fish and Wildlife, Interior Least Tern Recovery Plan

Pecos Sunflower
Helianthus paradoxus

[Photo: R. Sivinski, New Mexico Rare Plants, nmrareplants.unm.edu]
[Photo: R. Sivinski, New Mexico Rare Plants, nmrareplants.unm.edu]

Description: The Pecos sunflower is an annual forb of the Asteraceae family, which grows from 3.3-9.9 feet (1-3 m) tall. The Pecos sunflower has several solitary flowering heads, with yellow, flowering rays, which are 2.0-2.8 inches (5-7 cm) across and have purplish-brown disc flowers in the center. The leaves are green and lanceolate, 6.9 inches (17.5 cm) long, and 3.3 inches (8.5 cm) wide. The Pecos Sunflower is similar in appearance to Helianthus annuus and Helianthus petiolaris

Life History: The Pecos sunflower is an annual species and grows in dense stands where suitable habitat is found. Populations of the Pecos sunflower may migrate within the habitat, depending on factors like soil moisture, salinity, disturbance and competing vegetation. The Pecos sunflower reproduces from seed and is pollinated by a variety of insects. The Pecos sunflower blooms from September through October, with seed maturation occurring through November. Seeds germinate two to three months later with some seeds exhibiting much longer dormancy periods.

Habitat: The Pecos sunflower grows in rare, desert wetlands (cienegas) associated with desert springs and seeps found in West Texas and New Mexico. It has also been found on the margin of lakes, impoundment areas and creeks. The Pecos sunflower requires silty clays or saturated soils rich in organic matter for growth and tolerates the highly saline or alkaline conditions found in desert wetlands. This species grows at elevations of 3,300-6,600 feet (1,000-2,000 m) and requires open, sunny areas. Germination is optimal when high rains or a high water table desalinate the surface of the soil.

Distribution: Helianthus paradoxus is found in five counties in eastern New Mexico (Cibola, Valencia, Socorro, Guadalupe, and Chaves counties) and two counties in west Texas (Pecos and Reeves counties).

Critical habitat for this species has been determined (2008). The map below depicts the critical habitat for this species, as designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

NOTE: No warranty is given, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of these data. Data do no represent a legal description of the critical habitat boundary; refer to the textual description in the appropriate final rule for this species as published in the Federal Register.

Map of Federally Designated Critical Habitat for the Pecos sunflower (Helianthus paradoxus) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US FWS data].

Map of Federally Designated Critical Habitat for the Pecos sunflower (Helianthus paradoxus) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US FWS data]. Click on map for larger image.

Status: The Pecos sunflower was listed as a federally threatened species in 1999 and listed as endangered by the state of New Mexico. This species was listed due to its small range and threats from habitat modification, specifically, loss or alteration of wetland habitat. This is due to hydrological modifications including lowering of the water table from aquifer drawdown, impoundment of springs, and filling of wetlands. Other factors that threaten this species are exotic saltcedar (Tamarix sp.) invasion and livestock grazing during the flowering period. Hybridization with the common sunflower is also cause for concern.

Resources:

New Mexico Rare Plants, Pecos Sunflower

US Fish and Wildlife, Pecos Sunflower Recovery Plan


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