Emergent sandbar construction for least terns on the Missouri River: Effects on forage fishes in shallow-water habitats

River Research and Applications
By: , and 



Emergent sandbars on the Missouri River are actively managed for two listed bird species, piping plovers and interior least terns. As a plunge-diving piscivore, endangered least terns rely on ready access to appropriately sized slender-bodied fish: <52 mm total length for adults and <34 mm total length for young chicks. As part of a multi-agency recovery programme, aimed at enhancing nesting habitat for plovers and terns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mechanically created several emergent sandbars on the Missouri River. However, it was unknown whether sandbar construction is a benefit or a detriment to forage abundance for least terns. Therefore, we studied the shallow-water (<1.5 m) fish community near river and mechanically created emergent sandbars during three nesting seasons (2006–2008). We sampled every 2 weeks each year from late May to July within 15–16 areas to document the relative abundance, species richness and size classes of fish. Fish relative abundance was negatively related to depth. Catches were dominated by schooling species, including emerald shiner, sand shiner, spotfin shiner and bigmouth buffalo. Significant inter-annual differences in relative abundance were observed, with generally increasing trends in intra-seasonal relative abundance of shiners and the smallest size classes of fish (<34 mm). Significant differences in the fish communities between the sandbar types were not detected in this study. Results suggest that mechanical sandbar habitats host comparable fish communities at similar levels of relative abundance. Further analyses are required to evaluate if the levels of fish relative abundance are adequate to support least tern foraging and reproduction.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Emergent sandbar construction for least terns on the Missouri River: Effects on forage fishes in shallow-water habitats
Series title River Research and Applications
DOI 10.1002/rra.1525
Volume 28
Issue 8
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 12p.
First page 1254
Last page 1265
Country United States
State Nebraska, South Dakota
Other Geospatial Gavins Point Reach, Lewis And Clark Lake, Missouri River
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