The river basins of Tennessee contain the highest number of freshwater fish, mussel and crayfish species in North America. More than 125 of these species are endemic to the rivers and streams of the region, meaning they occur nowhere else in the world.
This amazing diversity persists in spite of Tennessee’s watersheds having undergone major transformations during the last century through construction of dams, expansion of cities and infrastructure, channelization of rivers and streams, increased agricultural development and mining of energy resources.
In the last decade alone, Tennessee’s population grew by over half a million residents. Our increasing population puts more pressure on water supplies and wastewater infrastructure. At the same time, the region has experienced episodes of both extreme drought and extreme flooding, which exposed weaknesses in our infrastructure and preparedness to manage water resources in the face of a changing climate.
Creating solutions to these challenges requires a focus on sound science and effective collaborations. Our freshwater science work in Tennessee focuses on this intersection, and we partner with our Nature Conservancy colleagues with expertise in environmental flow research and policy, compensatory mitigation and river restoration.