We developed stochastic matrix models to evaluate the effects of hydrologic alteration and variable mortality on the population dynamics of a lotie fish in a regulated river system. Models were applied to a representative lotic fish species, the flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), for which two populations were examined: a native population from a regulated reach of the Coosa River (Alabama, USA) and an introduced population from an unregulated section of the Ocmulgee River (Georgia, USA). Size-classified matrix models were constructed for both populations, and residuals from catch-curve regressions were used as indices of year class strength (i.e., recruitment). A multiple regression model indicated that recruitment of flathead catfish in the Coosa River was positively related to the frequency of spring pulses between 283 and 566 m3/s. For the Ocmulgee River population, multiple regression models indicated that year class strength was negatively related to mean March discharge and positively related to June low flow. When the Coosa population was modeled to experience five consecutive years of favorable hydrologic conditions during a 50-year projection period, it exhibited a substantial spike in size and increased at an overall 0.2% annual rate. When modeled to experience five years of unfavorable hydrologic conditions, the Coosa population initially exhibited a decrease in size but later stabilized and increased at a 0.4% annual rate following the decline. When the Ocmulgee River population was modeled to experience five years of favorable conditions, it exhibited a substantial spike in size and increased at an overall 0.4% annual rate. After the Ocmulgee population experienced five years of unfavorable conditions, a sharp decline in population size was predicted. However, the population quickly recovered, with population size increasing at a 0.3% annual rate following the decline. In general, stochastic population growth in the Ocmulgee River was more erratic and variable than population growth in the Coosa River. We encourage ecologists to develop similar models for other lotic species, particularly in regulated river systems. Successful management of fish populations in regulated systems requires that we are able to predict how hydrology affects recruitment and will ultimately influence the population dynamics of fishes. ?? 2010 by the Ecological Society of America.
Additional publication details
Tuning stochastic matrix models with hydrologic data to predict the population dynamics of a riverine fish