Effects of low-head barriers on stream fishes: Taxonomic affiliations and morphological correlates of sensitive species


Low-head barriers used in the control of parasitic sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in the basin of the Laurentian Great Lakes can alter the richness and composition of nontarget fishes in tributary streams. Identification of taxa sensitive to these barriers is an important step toward mitigating these effects. Upstream-downstream distributions of fishes in 24 pairs of barrier and reference streams from throughout the basin were estimated using electrofishing surveys. For 48 common species from 34 genera and 12 taxonomic families, 8-19 species, 5-16 genera, and 2-7 families showed evidence of being sensitive to barriers, with the variation in number depending on the statistical measure applied. Barriers did not differentially affect species from certain genera or families, nor did they affect species of certain body form. Therefore, taxonomic affiliation and swimming morphology are not useful for predicting sensitivity to barriers for fishes that co-occurred with sea lampreys but were not sampled adequately by our survey. Our estimates of sensitivity will help fisheries managers make sound, defensible decisions regarding the construction, modification (for fish passage), and removal of small, in-stream barriers.



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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences