River-stream connectivity affects fish bioassessment performance

Nathaniel P. Hitt, Paul L. Angermeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Stream fish bioassessment methods assume that fish assemblages observed in sample sites reflect responses to local stressors, but fish assemblages are influenced by local factors as well as regional dispersal to and from connected streams. We hypothesized that fish movement to and from refugia and source populations in connected rivers (i.e., riverine dispersal) would weaken or decouple relations between fish community metrics and local environmental conditions. We compared fish-environment relations between streams that flow into large rivers (mainstem tributaries) and streams that lack riverine confluences (headwater tributaries) at multiple spatial grains using data from the USEPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program in the mid-Atlantic highlands, USA (n = 157 sites). Headwater and mainstem tributaries were not different in local environmental conditions, but showed important differences in fish metric responses to environmental quality gradients. Stream sites flowing into mainstem channels within 10 fluvial km showed consistently weaker relations to local environmental conditions than stream sites that lacked such mainstem connections. Moreover, these patterns diminished at longer distances from riverine confluences, consistent with the hypothesis of riverine dispersal. Our results suggest that (1) the precision of fish bioassessment metrics may be improved by calibrating scoring criteria based on the spatial position of sites within stream networks and (2) the spatial grain of fish bioassessment studies may be manipulated to suit objectives by including or excluding fishes exhibiting riverine dispersal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-150
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Management
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008

Fingerprint

Fish
connectivity
Rivers
fish
river
tributary
environmental conditions
confluence
headwater
Stream flow
environmental assessment
refugium
environmental monitoring
environmental quality
streamflow
Monitoring

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution

Cite this

Hitt, Nathaniel P. ; Angermeier, Paul L. / River-stream connectivity affects fish bioassessment performance. In: Environmental Management. 2008 ; Vol. 42, No. 1. pp. 132-150.
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River-stream connectivity affects fish bioassessment performance. / Hitt, Nathaniel P.; Angermeier, Paul L.

In: Environmental Management, Vol. 42, No. 1, 01.07.2008, p. 132-150.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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