Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
Population characteristics of Shovelnose Sturgeon during low- and high-water conditions in the lower Platte River, Nebraska
Date of this Version
North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Accepted manuscript online: 14 DEC 2017,
Cycles of low- and high-water periods (i.e., years) in river systems are natural occurrences, but understanding how cyclical climatological patterns affect fishes, especially long-lived species, is unclear. We assessed Shovelnose Sturgeon population dynamics between a period of low- (2001-2004) and high- (2009-2012) water years in the lower Platte River, Nebraska. Low-flow periods in the lower Platte River can cause disconnection(s) between upstream and downstream reaches resulting in isolated pools and elevated water temperatures leading to stressful situations for aquatic life and possible mortality. Our data show no measurable differences between key population indices between flow condition periods which is consistent with current paradigms for long-lived fish species. Shovelnose Sturgeon relative weights were generally > 80 during both low- and high-water periods and the size structure did not differ between the two periods. Shovelnose Sturgeon abundances, however, were greater during high-water conditions compared to low-water conditions (Kruskal-Wallis: χ2 = 6.15, d.f. = 1, P = 0.01). Shovelnose Sturgeon may have migrated to more suitable habitats during low-water periods to seek refuge allowing these individuals to return during more suitable conditions. Shovelnose Sturgeon and other riverine fish have evolved in a variable environment and have been able to endure relatively minor anthropogenic changes within the lower Platte River. Rivers like the lower Platte River that have retained much of their original physical features and flow regimes are likely key components for the resistance and resilience of riverine species. However, as alterations to landscapes continue and uncertainty exists surrounding future climate predictions, it is unknown how these riverine species will be able to adapt to future changes. The reduction in anthropogenic changes that disrupt flow regimes and increasing connectivity among river systems could provide more fish refuge during stressful conditions helping to protect these riverine species.
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