We investigated habitat specificity of the amber darter (Percina antesella Williams & Etnier 1977), an imperiled fish from restricted portions of 2 rivers in the southeastern United States. Foraging amber darters occupied a narrow range of riffle habitat, consistently avoiding areas < 20 cm deep and with velocity < 10 cm. s-1 near the substrate, occupying areas with cobble or gravel substrate and average water-column velocity of 30 to 70 cm. s-1. During low to moderate flows, approximately 20% or more of the study areas contained suitable habitat for the species. Amber darters appeared rare, and the numbers of individuals were uncorrelated with the concurrent availability of suitable habitat. Protecting the amber darter may require more than maintaining adequate depths and velocities over gravel-cobble substrates. Until we understand the potential importance of migration and dispersal for maintaining small populations, suitable habitat should be maintained over the longest contiguous stream segments possible.
Additional publication details
Habitat use by an endangered riverine fish and implications for species protection