Is Rock Snot Affecting Your Rating Curve?

Didymosphenia geminata is a freshwater alga that forms extensive blooms on rocky stream beds. The common name for Didymo is ‘Rock Snot’. The common name is very descriptive of small quantities but I think that extensive blooms look more like a raw sewage spill. Long plumes of the brown mats will bleach white giving the appearance of strands of toilet paper trailing from a septic sludge.

Didymo is a northern circumpolar species preferring cold, clear water. It is spreading rapidly with the primary mode of dispersion suspected to be contaminated fishing/wading gear. It is a problematic invasive species because it’s effect on the food web of a stream starting with the displacement of common macro invertebrates and native alga.

hydrological data, hydrological methods, hydrology, hydrology blog, hydrology corner, water data, Rating Curves, MonitoringAttempts to control the spread of Didymo include banning felt soled wading boots. Some retailers have already eliminated felt-soled boots from their product line.  Felt soles are preferred by many stream hydrographers to provide the traction needed to measure fast flowing streams. Bans such as already exist in Alaska, Vermont and New Zealand will affect the safety of wading measurements at many locations. Felt soled waders are most effective where you have a smooth cobble bed with a thin biofilm of slippery green alga. You do not want to be responsible for introducing Didymo to these streams but you also don’t want to suffer injury as a result of a fall on the slippery rocks. For these locations you may want to cache a pair of felt soled waders in the gauge house to be used exclusively at that location.

Blooms of Didymo will affect a rating curve

The masses can be 10 to 20 cm thick with strands trailing for up to a meter in the current. Didymo is a silica-based diatom that creates a polysaccharide and protein stalk to attach to submerged rocks. These stalks are produced prolifically and are highly resistant to degradation. The thickness of the mat will affect the rating curve offset, which means the effect increases as stage decreases requiring a stage-based shift to the curve. An invasion of Didymo at a previously pristine gauge location will require an increase in measurement frequency, particularly at low-flow, to characterize the shape of the shift corrections as the mats form and decay.

Didymo will rapidly foul any in-stream sensor. It forms a heavy felt-like mat that completely covers every surface. Much more frequent cleaning of the sensors will be required. I do not know how an Acoustic Doppler Velocity Meter would be affected but I can’t imagine it would be good for acoustic fidelity. Bubblers may not be affected as badly but would also require more frequent inspection and maintenance.

Prevention Tips

To help reduce the spread of Didymo always check for evidence of contamination, clean with hot water and bleach or detergent and thoroughly dry any wading or metering gear that has been in contact with the water.

One response to “Is Rock Snot Affecting Your Rating Curve?”

  1. I might not be as educated as I shluod be regarding this issue, but to my understanding, drying your gear completely is the best method of dealing with invasive species. 409 and/or bleach is effective, but the fisheries people are thinking that exposing your fishing waters to these chemicals might not be the best thing. And if drying works, why risk contaminating the waters and destroying your gear by using chemicals? Perhaps we need to have the correct information available to everyone as a means of combating invasive species, regardless of the method. Of lesser import is the Simms turnaround. The protection of our watersheds were so important that they were willing to take a stand and halt production of the dreaded felt soled boots. BRAVO for them. O.K., so the cost of boots went up. And the price of studs went up. And we can surmise that the profits went down. And it seems odd that no other issues were addressed by a company that also makes other items that are known to assist in the spread of invasive species (waders, staffs and so on). The obvious conclusion here is that profits ARE the motive for manufacturers to be in business. We all know this. I just hate to be reminded of it. There are more purists in the streams than there are those who sit in the CEO chairs. Most of what you need to know about life you can learn while fishing

Join the conversation