Chrosomus cumberlandensis (Blackside Dace [BSD]) and Etheostoma spilotum (Kentucky Arrow Darter [KAD]) are fish species of conservation concern due to their fragmented distributions, their low population sizes, and threats from anthropogenic stressors in the southeastern United States. We evaluated the relationship between fish abundance and stream conductivity, an index of environmental quality and potential physiological stressor. We modeled occurrence and abundance of KAD in the upper Kentucky River basin (208 samples) and BSD in the upper Cumberland River basin (294 samples) for sites sampled between 2003 and 2013. Segmented regression indicated a conductivity change-point for BSD abundance at 343 μS/cm (95% CI: 123-563 μS/cm) and for KAD abundance at 261 μS/cm (95% CI: 151-370 μS/cm). In both cases, abundances were negligible above estimated conductivity change-points. Post-hoc randomizations accounted for variance in estimated change points due to unequal sample sizes across the conductivity gradients. Boosted regression-tree analysis indicated stronger effects of conductivity than other natural and anthropogenic factors known to influence stream fishes. Boosted regression trees further indicated threshold responses of BSD and KAD occurrence to conductivity gradients in support of segmented regression results. We suggest that the observed conductivity relationship may indicate energetic limitations for insectivorous fishes due to changes in benthic macroinvertebrate community composition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics