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Structural Organization of Great Plains Stream Fish Assemblages: Implications for Sampling and Conservation

Investigators
Jesse Fischer, M.S. student
Dr. Craig Paukert

Project Supervisor
Dr. Craig Paukert


Funding
Turner Enterprises, Inc.
Cooperators
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Location
Nebraska and Kansas
Completion
May 2007

Objectives

Determine the increment of sampling length (10, 20, 40, and 60 MSWs) and number of reaches needed to collect precise (75, 90, and 100%) estimates of segment species richness.

Identify the physical parameters and/or community structure that best explain the variation in sampling effort among streams.

Determine the relationship of fish community structure in response to environmental variation in two regions of the Great Plains with limited disturbance

Progress and Results

Stream fish assemblages were investigated in Nebraska and Kansas to determine the effects of habitat and sampling methodologies on the community structure and abundance of prairie stream fishes of the Great Plains. The number of reaches (<1 km) required to estimate segment (20-30 km) species richness decreased with increased reach length (10, 20, 40, or 60 mean stream width [MSW]) whereas total sampling effort decreased with more and shorter reaches. Only after all 10 reaches was total species richness obtained with 40 to 60 MSW. A greater number of reaches was needed to detect 90% of species richness and 25% changes in relative abundance when community similarity and habitat heterogeneity was lower. Our results suggest homogenous stream segments require more reaches to characterize fish community structure and monitor trends in fish abundance and a greater number of shorter reaches may be better than fewer longer (e.g. 40 or larger MSW) reaches. Effects of local environmental influences on the structure of fish assemblages were evaluated from 159 sites in two regions of the Great Plains with limited anthropogenic disturbance. These least disturbed regions offered an opportunity to evaluate the structure and natural variation of streams and fish assemblages within the Great Plains. Similar environmental factors structured streams and fish assemblages, despite differences in environmental conditions and species composition between regions. Variance in fish assemblages was best explained by stream size and habitat features linked with stream size.

Products
Reports:
Abstracts:
Presentations:
Publications:

Fischer, J. R., and C. P. Paukert. 2008. Historical and current environmental influences of an endemic Great Plains fish. American Midland Naturalist 159:364-377.

Fischer, J. R. 2007. Structural organization of Great Plains stream fish assemblages: implications for sampling and conservation. M.S. Thesis, Kansas State University.

Fischer, J. R., and C. P. Paukert. 2007. Spatial scale of stream fish assemblages and abundance estimates: effects of sampling effort, community structure, and habitat heterogeneity. American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Fischer, J., and C. Paukert. 2007. Sampling effort required to estimate species richness in wadeable Great Plains streams with a towed electrofishing. Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa Tri-State American Fisheries Society Meeting, Council Bluffs, IA.

Fischer, J., and C. Paukert. 2007. Historical and current environmental influences on an endemic great plains fish. Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa Tri-State American Fisheries Society Meeting, Council Bluffs, IA.

Fischer, J. R., and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Environmental influences structuring Great Plains stream fish assemblages. 67th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Omaha, NE. Fischer, J. R., and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Historical and environmental influence on an endemic Great Plains fish. 67th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. Omaha, NE.

Fischer, J., and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Factors influencing lotic fish-habitat relationships in the Great Plains. American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Lake Placid, NY.

Fischer, J., and C. P. Paukert. Habitat use of stream fishes in South Central Kansas. Kansas State University Biology Graduate Student Research Forum, Manhattan, KS.

Fischer, J., and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Environmental influences of stream fish in the Nebraska Sandhills. Nebraska Chapter of the AFS Annual Meeting, Gretna, NE.

Brinkley, P., J. Fischer, and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Effect of fixative on total length of small-bodied stream fish. 31st Kansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Hays, KS.

Fischer, J., and C. P. Paukert. 2006. Fish habitat relationships in South Central Kansas. 31st Kansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Hays, KS.