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Improving our ability to assess the impacts of hydrologic alteration on stream fishes: An interdisciplinary approach to assess the Threatened Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Neufeld, Kenton R
  • Human induced hydrologic alteration is ubiquitous in North American riverscapes. These alterations have been shown to impact fishes by modifying habitats, influencing movement patterns and driving changes in community structure. Understanding these impacts is an essential first step for the conservation of fish in these systems. We use Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis and the Milk River of southern Alberta as a model system to develop and apply an interdisciplinary approach to assess the impacts of hydrologic alteration on capture efficiency and habitat suitability of stream fishes. The capture efficiency of sampling gear is a key component of many fish research programs, and understanding the link between hydrology and capture efficiency is critical to accurately assessing the impacts of hydrologic alterations on fish. We measured seine net capture efficiency in the Milk River, and investigated the effects of flow, species, and habitat variables on capture efficiency using mixed effects models. Flow state was an important driver of capture efficiency, which increased ~5 % during augmented flow compared to natural flow. Habitat suitability assessments are commonly used to determine the impacts of hydrologic alteration on fishes, but often rely on poorly understood relationships between fish and their habitat. We used the swimming performance of Western Silvery Minnow to measure the cost of movement between habitat patches in the Milk River and incorporated this cost into a graph theoretic metric of habitat suitability (Equivalent Connected Area). Compared to augmented flow, the proportion of suitable area was ~ 475 % higher during natural flow, the mean cost of movement between habitat patches was ~ 13 % higher and Equivalent Connected Area increased ~ 0.119 (95% C.I. 0.109-0.130). By including flow as a variable in modelling capture efficiency and swimming performance as a mechanism defining habitat suitability, we show the utility and benefits of taking an interdisciplinary approach to assessing the impacts of hydrologic alteration on stream fishes.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2016-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R34T6F79H
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Master's
  • Department
    • Department of Renewable Resources
  • Specialization
    • Conservation Biology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Poesch, Mark (Renewable Resources)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Tierney, Keith (Biological Sciences)
    • Hamman, Andreas (Renewable Resources)
    • Watkinson, Douglas (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)