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Consequences of stream fragmentation and climate change for rare Great Plains fishes


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Rate of global biodiversity loss increased significantly during the 20th century associated with human environmental alterations. Specifically, mismanagement of freshwater resources contributed to historical and contemporary loss of stream-dwelling fish diversity and will likely play a role in determining the persistence of species in the future. We present a mechanistic pathway by which human alteration of streams has caused the decline of a unique reproductive guild of Great Plains stream-dwelling fishes, and suggest how future climate change might exacerbate these declines. Stream fragmentation related to impoundments, diversion dams and stream dewatering are consequences of increasing demand for freshwater resources and have effectively [...]

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Principal Investigator :
Keith B Gido
Co-Investigator :
Joshuah S Perkin, Eric Johnson, Vernon M Tabor
Funding Agency :
Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Lead Organization :
Kansas State University


Historical and contemporary patterns in stream fragmentation combined with projected changes in climate present a substantial conservation challenge for pelagic-spawning cyprinids in the Great Plains. Quantifying fragmentation and determining threshold values for the longitudinal stream length necessary for imperiled species persistence will ultimately benefit management plans by providing information on the probability of long-term success of decisions (e.g., successful repatriation, Luttrell 1997, Luttrell et al. 2002). Projecting potential success of management plans before actions are taken aids in developing landscape-scale (or riverscapescale) strategies that maximize effectiveness while keeping costs down. Additionally, quantifying specific aspects of a flow regime that are necessary for the long-term persistence of imperiled species aids not only in contemporary conservation planning (e.g., management of human-mediated flow regimes) but predicting potential effects of climate change. The goal of this study was to provide information that can be used in decision-support tools to enhance conservation delivery for pelagic-spawning cyprinid communities throughout the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) area. Specific objectives of this project included: 1) documenting the extent to which Great Plains riverscapes inhabited by this guild of fishes are fragmented; 2) evaluating threshold values for riverscape fragmentation that correspond with declines or extirpations of each species; 3) quantifying specific parameters of flow regime that are necessary for conservation and recovery of declining communities; 4) prioritizing regions in need of increased connectivity or where climate change is most likely to negatively impact extant populations.

Project Extension

productDescriptionReport and maps depicting stream fragmentation and locations for removal of stream barriers or installation of fish passage devices to promote connectivity of fish populations.

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