Influence of a Spring on Fish Communities and Habitat in an Ozark Stream

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Springs, stream fish community, stream refugia, water quality


Springs influence water temperature and flow of streams; however, little information exists on the effects of springs on fish communities and their potential as refugia. This study examined the impacts of a spring on a wadeable stream. Fish, water quality, and physical habitat data were collected seasonally in 2011-2012 upstream and downstream of Double Spring, located on Terrell Creek within Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri. Downstream of the spring, stream width was similar among seasons, and temperature, dissolved oxygen, and depth were less variable than upstream throughout the year. Temperature was significantly higher and dissolved oxygen was significantly lower at the upstream reach in summer, which completely dried by fall. During spring and winter, temperature and dissolved oxygen did not vary between reaches. The fish community differed between the upstream and downstream sites, particularly in summer when community similarity (Bray-Curtis) was 30.2%. Species richness and number of species intolerant to human disturbance and poor water quality were always greater in the downstream site within each season, with species richness and relative abundance highest during summer and fall. In the upstream reach, species richness was highest in the spring and relative abundance was highest in summer. Across seasons, species richness, number of intolerant species, and relative abundance were more consistent at the downstream reach compared to upstream. The presence of springs in small wadeable streams influences both physical/chemical habitat parameters and fish assemblages downstream, allowing communities to persist during dry summer months and potentially acting as refugia or supporting source populations for upstream reaches.

Recommended Citation

Clark, Myranda K., and Hope R. Dodd. "Influence of a Spring on Fish Communities and Habitat in an Ozark Stream." Natural Areas Journal 36, no. 1 (2016): 72-80.

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