VERNAL POOL FAIRY SHRIMP (BRANCHIOPODS)
Branchinecta sandiegonensis, Streptocephalus wootoni, & more
Status: Federally Endangered
Recovery Permit Required for Surveys? Yes
USFWS Protocol Surveys Required? Yes
Range: Southern California & more
Chez Brungraber of SummitWest has a USFWS recovery permit to conduct protocol surveys presence/absence of all listed species in the state of California. She also holds the permit for dry season surveys, which consist of cyst culturing and raising. Both surveys are typically required by USFWS for projects.
Per the Vernal Pool Association, a vernal pool is “a contained basin depression lacking a permanent above ground outlet” (Vernal Pool Association 2002). More than 90% of California’s vernal pools have already been lost, making them very special and highly protected habitats. (Science Direct)… Numerous rare plants, such as Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii and Pogogyne abramsii, are found in vernal pools.
Although there are many types of seasonally inundated wetlands, vernal pools are special in that they have a clay lens layer, which prevents water from being absorbed into the ground quickly, allowing for ponding. But unlike a wetland, they do not support typical hydrophytic vegetation and do not have an inflow/outflow of water except during high rain events. Really, they are glorified puddles that evaporate rather than drain or absorb. According to the USFWS, vernal pools “are so named for their endemic floras (e.g., Downingia sp., Eryngium sp., Plagiobothrys sp., Psilocarphus ssp.) Vernal pools are typically classified by the local geology and usually have clay soils (cite: (Zedler 1987, CDFW 1998).) Vernal pools may occur singly, but more typically occur in vernal pool complexes, due to local hydrology, geology, and topography. In an intact vernal pool, the first few rains of the season wet the surface, sometimes ponding water for a few hours to days before percolating into the subsoil ” (USFWS protocol).
FAIRY SHRIMP CHARACTERISTICS
Since not everyone recalls what sea monkeys are, according to the USFWS protocol, “Branchiopods are small crustaceans of the class (or subclass) Branchiopoda, having flattened, foot-like or paddle-like appendages that are used for locomotion, filter feeding, and respiration. Includes fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp, and clam shrimp” (USFWS protocol)
SURVEY SEASON & GUIDELINES
Per the USFWS listed fairy shrimp survey guidelines, a complete survey consists of one wet season survey and one dry season survey, conducted and completed in accordance with these guidelines and conducted within a 3- year period
Surveyors should visit sites after initial storm events to determine when known or potential listed large branchiopod habitat has become inundated. Appropriate habitat is considered to be inundated when it holds greater than 3 cm of standing water 24 hours after a rain event.
Surveys will continue every 7 to 14 days, for 90 to 120 days or until the pool dries, depending on the location of the pools in the state of California. If pools dry and are re-inundated, surveys will commence anew.
Soil (substrate) shall be collected when it is dry to avoid damaging or destroying listed large branchiopod eggs (also known as cysts or resting eggs). A hand spade or similar instrument shall be used to collect the sample at each feature taking from the top 1-3 cm of pool sediment.
The collected cysts will be cultured and processed, and then hatched under simulated conditions, at which point the fairy shrimp can be identified by the biologist.
Only biologists who hold a valid 10(a)1(A) recovery permit for the listed large branchiopods with additional terms and conditions included in their permit specifically for conducting processing, isolating, and identifying listed large branchiopod eggs are authorized to conduct this procedure.”