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PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL VARIABILITY OF FISH COMMUNITIES IN THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER BASIN

National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program
South Platte River Basin Study

by Cathy M. Tate and Sharon L. Qi 1

ABSTRACT

The objective of this study was to examine the spatial and temporal variability of fish communities in the South Platte River Basin in relation to environmental factors. This study was a part of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment program. Fish were collected by electrofishing at 11 sites during three summers from 1993 to 1995. Thirty-eight fish species distributed among 12 families were captured at the 11 sites. Fish communities varied spatially, and the number of fish species increased from upstream sites (2-5 species in mountains) to downstream sites (4-14 species in plains tributaries and 10-33 species in plains main stem). Fish abundance (number of fish per length of stream) at a site varied from year to year, whereas species composition (presence/absence of a species at a site) at most sites varied little among years. Natural and human factors affected fish communities. Although high flows of long duration occurred in 1995, major shifts in fish species at a site did not occur except for one site. Eight species were identified in 1995 that were not present in the previous 2 years at the most downstream site. At main-stem sites, the number of fish species increased downstream in response to natural changes in habitat, masking any human effects on fish communities. A decreased number of species occurred at a mountain site downstream of mining, compared to other mountain sites and no fish were captured at a plains tributary site affected by agriculture, as compared to the upstream site in rangeland.

1 U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 415, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225

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