Biodiversity in the Cahaba River

Canoe trip to Lily Shoals
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Family in lily shoals
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross

The Cahaba River is marked as one of the most biodiverse rivers in North America. The Cahaba River is noted to be one of the only eight hotspots of biodiversity in the world by the Nature Conservancy.  The river currently supports sixty-nine rare species of plants and animals with thirteen species endemic to the area. This icthyologically prominent river is not just known for its vast numbers of aquatic and land life, but it is also known for the ten species of mussels and fish that are imperiled or threatened in the area. Even more startling news discovers, “American Rivers reported the Cahaba as one of the 10 most endangered rivers in North America” (Cahaba River Society). With 50 species of freshwater mussels, 124 native fish species, and 24 native species of freshwater snails, the river is well known for its great freshwater biodiversity.  Of these rare species, the Cahaba Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) is of great importance.  Found only in the Cahaba River, this lily helped support the creation of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.  Along with the Cahaba lily, the Cahaba shiner, goldline darter, and the Round Rocksnail are all found in the Cahaba River and the diverse habitats it provides for these species.  Out of 2,111 watersheds, the Cahaba River is in the top eight hot spots of biodiversity, yet it is ranked 29th most critically needed to be protected.

Birmingham-Southern College, UES 160 Environmental Earth Science 2014 class