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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOURCE WATER QUALITY EFFECTS OF MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND LAND USE ON POORLY DRAINED LAND Title: Implications of fish-habitat relationships for developing conservation plans for channelized headwater streams in the midwestern United States.

Authors
item Smiley, Peter
item Gillespie, Robert - INDIANA UNIVERSITY
item King, Kevin
item Huang, Chi Hua

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 19, 2008
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Citation: Smiley, P.C., Gillespie, R.B., King, K.W., Huang, C. 2011. Implications of fish-habitat relationships for developing conservation plans for channelized headwater streams in the midwestern United States. Meeting Proceedings. 303-315.

Interpretive Summary: Conservation practices are management practices designed to reduce the impacts of agriculture by reducing sediment, nutrient, and pesticide loadings to agricultural streams. The impact of these practices is not well understood because of their ecological impacts have not been evaluated and the relationships between stream communities and water chemistry is not well understood. We evaluated the relationships of nutrients, pesticides, and physicochemical variables with fish communities within agricultural drainage ditches in northeastern Indiana and central Ohio. The observed relationships between water chemistry and fish communities were weak, but statistically significant. Additionally, those regression models that included a combination of nutrients, pesticides, and physicochemical variables had the greatest influence on fish communities. Our results have implications for designing conservation plans for agricultural drainage ditches (i.e., channelized headwater streams) in the midwestern United States. Specifically, they suggest that if water chemistry modifications are the management focus then those conservation practices that have a combined influence on nutrients, pesticides, and physicochemical variables will be the most beneficial for fishes. Additionally, our results also suggest the development of a conservation plan that use a combination of conservation practices capable of addressing physical habitat and water chemistry degradation are most likely to provide the greatest benefits for fish communities within these impacted headwater streams.

Technical Abstract: Many headwater streams in the midwestern United States were channelized for agricultural drainage. Conservation practices are implemented to reduce nutrient and pesticide loadings within these altered streams. The impact of these practices is uncertain because the influence of water chemistry on stream communities is not well understood. We evaluated the relationships between water chemistry and fish communities within channelized headwater streams of Cedar Creek, Indiana and Upper Big Walnut Creek, Ohio. Measurements of water chemistry, hydrology, and fishes have been collected from 20 sites beginning in 2005. Backward selection multiple regression analyses indicated that fish communities were most often correlated with ammonia, nitrate plus nitrite, metolachlor, dissolved oxygen, and pH. Observed relationships between water chemistry and fish communities were weak, but significant (P < 0.05). Fish communities exhibited negative correlations with ammonia and nitrate plus nitrite and positive correlations with dissolved oxygen, pH, and metolachlor. The strongest observed relationships occurred within those regression models that included a combination of nutrients, pesticides, and physicochemical variables. Multiple regression analyses also indicated that five water chemistry variables were significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with hydrology. Our results suggest that if water chemistry is the focus of a conservation plan, then the most effective conservation practices may be those that have a combined influence on nutrients, pesticides, and physicochemical variables. Additionally, the use of a combination of conservation practices to address physical habitat and water chemistry degradation is most likely to provide the greatest benefits for fish communities within channelized headwater streams.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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