Date of this Version
Vol. 16: 225–234, 2012
The pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus is a federally endangered species native to the Missouri and lower Mississippi Rivers, USA. As part of recovery efforts, over 360 000 pallid sturgeon have been stocked into the Missouri River since 1994, and a standardized, long-term monitoring program was initiated in 2003. Understanding the distribution and habitat requirements of juvenile and early adult pallid sturgeon (fork length <720 mm, age <10 yr) is an important goal of the monitoring and recovery programs. In this study, we collected information on habitat characteristics and prey availability from the upper Missouri River along the Nebraska-South Dakota border and compared these attributes between capture (present) and non-capture (absent) locations (N = 59). To evaluate the relative influence of habitat and prey availability on pallid sturgeon occurrence, we examined several candidate models using an informationtheoretic approach. A prey availability model had the most support and included site-specific information on Diptera and Ephemeroptera abundance. A habitat-based model showed that juveniles and early adults were found in relatively deeper water and avoided areas where bottom velocities were greater than 1.2 m s−1. Although not as well supported as the prey-effects model (evidence ratio = 6.4), habitat features also provided a plausible model for predicting occurrence. The models developed here could be used to evaluate pallid sturgeon habitat potential in the Missouri River basin and help guide future monitoring and conservation management of this endangered species.