Regional, watershed, and site-specific environmental influences on fish assemblage structure and function in western Lake Superior tributaries

John C. Brazner, Danny K. Tanner, Naomi E. Detenbeck, Sharon L. Batterman, Stacey L. Stark, Leslie A. Jagger, Virginia M. Snarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

The relative importance of regional, watershed, and in-stream environmental factors on fish assemblage structure and function was investigated in western Lake Superior tributaries. We selected 48 second- and third-order watersheds from two hydrogeomorphic regions to examine fish assemblage response to differences in forest fragmentation, watershed storage, and a number of other watershed, riparian, and in-stream habitat conditions. Although a variety of regional, fragmentation, and storage-related factors had significant influences on the fish assemblages, water temperature appeared to be the single most important environmental factor. We found lower water temperatures and trout-sculpin assemblages at lower fragmentation sites and higher temperatures and minnow-sucker-darter assemblages as storage increased. Factors related to riparian shading and flow separated brook trout streams from brown trout (Salmo trutta) - rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) streams. Functionally, fish assemblages at lower fragmentation sites were dominated by cold-water fishes that had low silt tolerance and preferred moderate current speeds, while fishes with higher silt tolerances, warmer temperature preferences, and weaker sustained swimming capabilities were most common at higher storage sites. Our results suggest that site-specific environmental conditions are highly dependent on regional- and watershed-scale characters and that a combination of these factors operates in concert to influence the structure and function of stream fish assemblages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1254-1270
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume62
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2005

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