Populations of American eel Anguilla rostrata along the eastern coast of North America have declined drastically for largely unknown reasons. We examined the population dynamics of American eels in six tributaries of the Hudson River, New York, to quantify their distribution and the impacts of anthropogenic stressors. With up to 155 American eels per 100 m2, tributary densities are greater than those within the main stem of the Hudson River and are among the highest reported anywhere. The predominance of small American eels (<200 mm) and wide range of ages (from young-of-year glass eels to 24-year-old yellow eels) suggest that tributaries are an important nursery area for immature American eels. However, upstream of natural and artificial barriers, American eel densities were reduced by at least a factor of 10 and condition, as measured by mass, was significantly lower. Significantly lower American eel condition was also found with increasing riparian urbanization. Density-dependent growth limitations below barriers are suggested by increased growth rates above the first tributary barrier. We suggest that (1) tributaries are important habitat for the conservation of American eels and (2) mitigation of anthropogenic stressors is vital for complete utilization of available habitat and conservation of the species. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2007.
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Anthropogenic impacts on American eel demographics in Hudson River tributaries, New York