Kansas State University
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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Andrea Severson (2007)- High water habitat: Fish populations in two Kansas River backwater areas. (Mentor: Craig Paukert)

The Flood Pulse Concept states that flooding in large rivers may benefit fishes by providing spawning and nursery habitats as well as increased productivity. The Kansas River flooded in May 2007 and provided an opportunity to test the Flood Pulse Concept. I hypothesized that the flooding would result in greater fish abundances in the backwaters than in the main channel, and that fish would experience faster growth in the nutrient-rich backwater areas. Fishes in two Kansas River backwater and adjacent main channel areas were sampled using electrofishing and seining. No differences were found in fish abundances in the main channel or backwater areas, which did not support the hypothesis that the backwater areas would have greater fish abundances. However, two small-bodied fish species in one of the backwaters averaged greater lengths than the same species sampled in the adjacent main channel. These data appear to support the hypothesis that fish would experience faster growth in backwater areas. However, it is possible that larger fish were the result of increased sampling efficiency or an increased proportion of larger, spawning fish in the backwater versus the main channel. Also, it was assumed that these fish were all of the same age class, although no aging or determination of hatch date was attempted, and thus it is possible that the larger fish were older than their main channel counterparts. Nevertheless, backwater areas do appear to be productive, and further sampling in the future may reveal the true effects of the 2007 flooding.