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Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Katherine White (2008)

Katherine White (2008)- Evaluating fish habitat usage in the Kansas River at species and community levels. (Mentors: Craig Paukert and Joe Gerken)

In large river systems, little is understood about the influence of different habitat types on species and community-level characteristics of fish. This study had two goals: 1) to assess differences in fish species and community attributes between three habitat types (mud bank, log jam, rip rap) at 439 randomly selected sites within the main channel along the entire Kansas River, and 2) to investigate fish utilization of two flooded secondary channels in a river reach located near Manhattan, Kansas. Daytime low pulse electrofishing during May-August 2006 and 2007 yielded 1468 total fish dominated by five taxa (flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris, red shiner Cyprinella lutrensis, river carpsucker Carpiodes carpio, freshwater drum Aplodinotus grunniens, and blue sucker Cycleptus elongatus) from the three habitat types in the main channel along the entire river. Standardized seine hauls with a 4 meter seine net yielded 1288 fish from 6 samples taken within the main channel, dominated by four taxa (red shiner, white bass Morone chrysops, freshwater drum, and gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum), and 584 fish from five samples taken within the secondary channels, dominated by three taxa (red shiner, sand shiner Notropis stramineus, freshwater drum). Species richness and diversity were significantly highest in rip rap, and four species (shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, flathead catfish, blue sucker, smallmouth buffalo Ictiobus bubalus) had significantly higher abundances in one of the three habitat types. Discriminant function analysis and percent similarity indices indicated that fish assemblages did not differ among the three habitat types in the main channel or between secondary and main channels. The Kansas River fish community is dominated by habitat generalists and tolerant species that can exploit various habitats, potentially leading to a lack of community-level habitat associations. This pattern could also result from temporal effects (little habitat partitioning in the summer season), or unnoticed association patterns (habitat selection by specific fish life stages). Future research should focus on the mechanisms of how fish are utilizing different habitat types in the river and should ideally sample throughout the year and across age classes to assess any temporal or ontological trends in habitat associations.