Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 12, 2006
Publication Date: August 6, 2006
Citation: Smiley, P.C., King, K.W. 2006. Fish-habitat relationships in drainage ditches within a predominantly agricultural watershed in central Ohio. Ecological Society of America Abstracts. p. 364. Technical Abstract: Agricultural drainage ditches are a common landscape feature in Ohio, and constitute 25% of stream habitat in Ohio. Management of drainage ditches focuses on removing excess water from agricultural fields without considering the influence of these actions on the biota living within ditches. Information on the habitat use of fishes within drainage ditches is limited. Understanding fish-habitat relationships within drainage ditches will provide insights on how environmental considerations can be incorporated into the management of these aquatic habitats. We sampled 12 sites in six drainage ditches within the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed from April to September 2005. Fishes were sampled with a backpack electrofisher and seine. We also measured geomorphology, riparian habitat, water chemistry, and instream habitat within each site. Multivariate analyses were used to examine the relationships between fish and physical habitat variables. Drainage ditches were characterized as shallow, slow flowing water within low gradient, straight, enlarged channels. The five most abundant fish species captured were fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus), Johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum), and green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus). Fish communities were most strongly associated with wet width, water depth, and sinuosity. Our results suggest that agricultural drainage ditches in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed are providing habitat for fishes that commonly occur in headwater streams in Ohio. Our results also suggest that management actions that alter the hydrology of ditches will exhibit a greater impact on fish communities than other types of management actions.