Habitat for age-0 shovelnose sturgeon and pallid sturgeon in a large river: Interactions among abiotic factors, food, and energy intake


The main stems of large rivers throughout the world have been highly modified with little consideration for effects on fishes that rely on these areas to complete their life histories. Particularly important is the ability of riverine habitats to provide foraging opportunities for young fish.We explored how temperature, flow, and food availability influenced diet content, prey selection (Strauss's linear selectivity index), and energy condition of age-0 shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus and pallid sturgeon S. albus in major habitat areas (e.g., islands, channel borders, wing dikes, and side channels) of the middle Mississippi River during spring (March-May) and summer (June-August) 2008. Standardized diet mass (dry mass standardized for fish body mass) of the age-0 sturgeon peaked at about 19 °C and at a flow velocity of 0.5 m/s. Although potential prey taxa were diverse, the diets for age-0 sturgeon of all sizes were dominated by mayflies (Ephemeroptera) and midge larvae (Chironomidae) across all habitats. As age-0 sturgeon grew, the relative energy return per habitat appeared to diverge; island tips upstream of the main channel and channel border areas behind wing dikes provided higher gains in standardized diet mass than other habitats. No differences in energy condition (kJ/g) occurred among habitats, although large (51-200 mm total length [TL]) age-0 sturgeon had higher energy densities than their small (≤50 mm TL) counterparts. Enhancement of areas with flow and substrates that facilitate the production and availability of midges and mayflies (e.g., instream island complexes) is critical for the recruitment of age-0 Scaphirhynchus sturgeon in large rivers.

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North American Journal of Fisheries Management