Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 2016, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 131-146,; doi: 10.1080/02705060.2015.1055312


US govt work


Reservoirs can be dynamic systems, often prone to unpredictable and extreme waterlevel fluctuations, and can be environments where survival is difficult for zooplankton and larval fish. Although numerous studies have examined the effects of extreme reservoir drawdown on water quality, few have examined extreme drawdown on both abiotic and biotic characteristics. A fissure in the dam at Red Willow Reservoir in southwest Nebraska necessitated an extreme drawdown; the water level was lowered more than 6 m during a two-month period, reducing reservoir volume by 76%. During the subsequent low-water period (i.e., post-drawdown), spring sampling (April-June) showed dissolved oxygen concentration was lower, while turbidity and chlorophyll-a concentration were greater, relative to pre-drawdown conditions. Additionally, there was an overall increase in zooplankton density, although there were differences among taxa, and changes in mean size among taxa, relative to pre-drawdown conditions. Zooplankton assemblage composition had an average dissimilarity of 19.3% from pre-drawdown to post-drawdown. The ratio of zero to non-zero catches was greater post-drawdown for larval common carp and for all larval fishes combined, whereas we observed no difference for larval gizzard shad. Larval fish assemblage composition had an average dissimilarity of 39.7% from pre-drawdown to postdrawdown. Given the likelihood that other dams will need repair or replacement in the near future, it is imperative for effective reservoir management that we anticipate the likely abiotic and biotic responses of reservoir ecosystems as these management actions will continue to alter environmental conditions in reservoirs.