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Developing and Testing a Spatially-Explicit, Science-Based, Decision-Support Tool for Making Riverscape-Scale Management Decisions: How Dams Affect Fish Communities, a Threatened Native Stream Fish (the Neosho Madtom), and Select Tributary Fish Species

Jane Fencl, M.S. Student
Sean Hitchman, Ph.D. Student
Dr. Joe Smith
Dr. Martha Mather
Eric Johnson, KDWPT

Project Supervisor
Dr. Martha Mather

December 2015
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Neosho River, Kansas
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Kansas State University
Develop and test a spatially-explicit, decision-support tool for managing human impacts in stream and river networks
Quantify how dams and scale affect fish communities in and threatened / endangered fish species
Assist in developing protocols for assessing dam removals
Collect pre and post-removal data for Correll Dam

Progress and Results
Managers need science-based tools to assess how human activities impact resources. Useful tools need to be based on rigorous, current science, yet they also need to address specific problems relevant to environmental managers. Consequently, an effective decision-support tool should (i) translate existing scientific insights into the spatial-temporal scales, specificity, and precision needed to address real-world management problems, (ii) identify future information needs, and (iii) help management agencies efficiently allocate their time, manpower, and funding resources. Stream fish distribution is influenced by many factors other than dams. Although fragmentation by dams is a reasonable focus for developing a lotic decision-support tool, a broad range of other ecological conditions (such as habitat, temperature, discharge, and the biotic community) must also be included. This research will advance riverscape scale understanding of the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems. In addition, managers will be able to place their management actions in a synthetic, landscape-scale, multiple-stressor context. Both graduate students have written proposals for their research that meet the standards of the KSU Division of Biology BIO 863, a course required of all incoming graduate students. We have met with KDWPT and other regional experts to discuss the fish community of the Neosho River. The graduate students have completed first aid, MOCC training, and attended an NSF- sponsored aquatic GIS course at St. Louis University. We are in the process of evaluating (a) which sampling gear will be most effective, (b) the most effective scale for sampling and (c) size of the dam footprint. We have hosted researchers from Missouri who demonstrated the mini-Missouri trawl and determined that this gear is suitable for comparing fish communities above and below dams.

Jane Fencl, Martha Mather, Sean Hitchman and Joseph Smith. 2014. Quantifying impacts of river fragmentation: how low-head dams affect distributions of fish biodiversity and habitat in the Neosho River, Kansas. Graduate Student Research Forum, Division of Biology, Kansas State University.

Sean Hitchman, Martha Mather, Jane Fencl and Joseph Smith. 2014. Heterogeneity influences patters of fish biodiversity at multiple scales. Graduate Student Research Forum, Division of Biology, Kansas State University.

Fencl, J. S., K. H. Costigan, M. E. Mather and S. M. Hitchman. 2014. How long is the dam footprint?: Applying methodology that quantifies the geomorphic extent of low-head dams in the Neosho River basin, KS. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.,/p>

Hitchman, S.M., M.E. Mather, J.M. Smith, and J.S. Fencl. 2014. Do Fragstats sink or swim?; calculating metrics of heterogeneity for aquatic macrohabitat within the Neosho River, KS. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.,/p>

Smith, J. M., M. E. Mather, J. Fencl, and S, M. Hitchman. 2012. Stopping biodiversity loss: An evaluation of metrics that quantify the composition of fish communities in aquatic ecosystems. Midwest American Fisheries Society Meeting, Wichita, KS.