Downstream fish assemblage response to river impoundment varies with degree of hydrologic alteration
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River impoundments can fundamentally restructure downstream fish assemblages by altering flow regimes. However, the degree of alteration and associated ecological change may depend on pre-existing hydrologic regimes. We used long-term datasets to compare downstream hydrological and fish assemblage responses to impoundment in two catchments classified as having intermittent and perennial-flashy natural hydrologic regimes. We observed significant shifts in fish assemblage structure at both sites after stream impoundment. The historically intermittent stream shifted to a stable perennial flow regime. Changes in fish assemblage structure covaried with changes in five different components of the flow regime; most species that increased in abundance require fluvial habitats and likely benefited from increased flows during historically low flow seasons. Shifts in fish assemblage structure were also observed in the perennial stream, despite minimal flow alteration after impoundment; however, most species shifts were associated with lentic environments, and were more likely related to proximity of reservoirs in the drainage system rather than changes in stream flow. Findings from this study confirm that downstream fish assemblage response to river impoundment can be associated with high levels of hydrologic alteration, but other factors including expansion of lentic species into lotic environments also influence shifts in assemblage structure.
KeywordsFlow alteration Flow regimes Dams Impoundments Fish assemblages Fluvial specialists
We thank Ellen Tejan of Enogex, LCC for providing us with complied fish records for the State of Oklahoma. Ryan A. McManamay, David Hoeinghaus, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved this paper. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Science Support Partnership Program and the Oklahoma and New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units. The New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey, Cornell University, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Management Institute. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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