Documenting the status of rare fishes is a crucial step in effectively managing populations and implementing regulatory mechanisms of protection. In recent years, site occupancy has become an increasingly popular metric for assessing populations, but species distribution models that do not account for imperfect detection can underestimate the proportion of sites occupied and the strength of the relationship with a hypothesized covariate. However, valid detection requires temporal or spatial replication, which is often not feasible due to logistical or budget constraints. In this study, we used a method that allowed for spatial replication during a single visit to evaluate the current status of the holiday darter species complex, Etheostoma sp. cf. E. brevirostrum, within the Etowah River system. Moreover, the modeling approach used in this study facilitated comparisons of factors influencing stream occupancy as well as species detection within sites. The results suggest that there is less habitat available for the Etowah holiday darter form (Etheostoma sp. cf. E. brevirostrum B) than for the Amicalola holiday darter form (Etheostoma sp. cf. E. brevirostrum A). Additionally, occupancy models suggest that even small decreases in forest cover within these headwater systems adversely affect holiday darter populations.
Additional publication details
Occupancy modeling and estimation of the holiday darter species complex within the Etowah River system