Flows, droughts, and aliens: factors affecting the fish assemblage in a Sierra Nevada, California, stream

TitleFlows, droughts, and aliens: factors affecting the fish assemblage in a Sierra Nevada, California, stream
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsKiernan, J. D., & Moyle P. B.
JournalEcological Applications
Paginationpp. 1146-1161
Date Published06/2012
Keywordsassemblage structure, community ecology, drought, fish conservation, flow regime, introduced species, long-term data, Marlis Creek, persistence.
AbstractThe fishes of Martis Creek, in the Sierra Nevada of California (USA), were sampled at four sites annually over 30 years, 1979–2008. This long-term data set was used to examine (1) the persistence and stability of the Martis Creek fish assemblage in the face of environmental stochasticity; (2) whether native and alien fishes responded differently to a natural hydrologic regime (e.g., timing and magnitude of high and low flows); and (3) the importance of various hydrologic and physical habitat variables in explaining the abundances of native and alien fish species through time. Our results showed that fish assemblages were persistent at all sample sites, but individual species exhibited marked interannual variability in density, biomass, and relative abundance. The density and biomass of native fishes generally declined over the period of study, whereas most alien species showed no significant long-term trends. Only alien rainbow trout increased in both density and biomass at all sites over time. Redundancy analysis identified three hydrologic variables (annual 7-day minimum discharge, maximum winter discharge, and number of distinct winter floods) and two habitat variables (percentage of pool habitat and percentage of gravel substrate) that each explained a significant portion of the annual variation in fish assemblage structure. For alien taxa, their proportional contribution to the total fish assemblage was inversely related to mean annual streamflow, one-day maximum discharge in both winter and spring, and the frequency of springtime floods. Results of this study highlight the need for continuous annual monitoring of streams with highly variable flow regimes to evaluate shifts in fish community structure. Apparent successes or failures in stream management may appear differently depending on the time series of available data.