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Recruitment of Fishes in the Kansas River

Joe Gerken, Ph.D. student
Dr. Craig Paukert

Project Supervisor
Dr. Craig Paukert

Kansas State University
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
In progress
December 2012
Kansas River in eastern Kansas
Identify the biological and environmental factors that influence recruitment in the Kansas River.
Determine if year class strength of selected fishes is related to river flows, and if year class strength is consistent throughout the Kansas River.
Make recommendations of the conditions (flows) suitable for recruitment of large river fish.
Progress and Results
The exchange of nutrients between inundated terrestrial habitats and the main channel is thought to be a vital component of nutrient flow and food web assemblages in large rivers. Inundated terrestrial habitats may increase nutrient availability to fishes both directly (e.g. movement into flooded habitats) and indirectly (e.g. nutrients flushed into main channel) during periods of high flow. Allochthonous inputs during high flows may also provide fishes and invertebrates with necessary nutrients and energy after floods recede and return to base flow. Despite the perceived importance of high flows for fishes and their invertebrate prey base, few studies have quantitatively examined how fish and invertebrate communities respond to flooding and floodplain inundation. We sampled fishes and benthic and drifting invertebrates in inundated habitats and adjacent main channel and downstream reaches of the Kansas River from 2009 – 2011. Samples were collected from each reach before, during, and after floods to quantify how nutrient flow is impacted by floodplain inundation. Drifting invertebrate densities were highest during high flows (x=1.07 invertebrates/m3) and lowest post flooding (0.39 invertebrates/m3) (p<0.001). During high flows, invertebrate density was significantly higher in flooded habitats (x=1.03 invertebrates/m3) than in the main channel (x =0.73 invertebrates/m3) and downstream reaches (x=0.64 invertebrates/m3 ) (p<0.001) indicating that prey may be more readily available to fishes that move into these habitats. Stable isotope analyses used to examine nutrient use by fishes in the main channel and inundated habitats found that carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope signatures were similar between fishes in flooded habitats and main channel reaches indicating that both groups of fishes are utilizing similar nutrient sources.
Preliminary results of this study indicate that large bodied fishes utilized flooded habitats when available, and that the inundation of terrestrial habitats during the flood pulse provides invertebrates to the main channel that may be consumed by main channel fishes. Data analysis is ongoing and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2012.

Mammoliti, K., J. Gerken, and C. Paukert. 2010. Population characteristics of channel catfish in the Kansas River. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

Gerken, J. E., and C. P. Paukert. 2010. Fish recruitment in the Kansas River: the role of flow, habitat, and urbanization. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

White, K., J. Gerken, C. Paukert, and A. Makinster. 2010. Fish community structure in natural and engineered habitats in the Kansas River. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

Gerken, J., and C. Paukert. 2010. Testing the flood pulse concept: The importance of floodplain inundation on fish and invertebrates of a Great Plains river. American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA

Gerken, J., and C. Paukert. 2010. Floods and fishes: examining the role of high flows on fish and invertebrates in a large Great Plains River. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, St. Paul, MN.

Paukert, C. and J. Gerken. 2010. The Importance of secondary channels to mainchannel fishes in the Kansas River. Big River Confab, Jefferson City, MO.

Gerken, J., and C. Paukert. 2011. The importance of high flows and floodplain inundation for fish and invertebrates of the Kansas River. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

Gerken, J., and C. Paukert. 2011. Age-specific demography of silver carp: implications for management and control. American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Gerken, J., and C. Paukert. 2011. Can silver carp be controlled? Population level response to various management regimes. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Des Moines, IA.