Patterns of fish mortality and associated physicochemical factors were studied during late spring in a managed wetland canal along the lower Missouri River, Missouri. Mean dawn dissolved oxygen was lower and mean un-ionized ammonia and turbidity were higher during the fish kill than before or after the kill, or than was observed in a nearby wetland canal where no fish kill occurred. Dissolved oxygen at dawn and un-ionized ammonia concentrations were at critically low and high levels respectively, so that both likely contributed to the fish mortality. Timing and magnitude of observed carcasses suggested that Ameiurus melas Rafinesques was the most tolerant species for the sizes observed compared to Ictiobus cyprinellus Valenciennes, Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, Cyprinus carpio Linneaus, and Lepomis cyanellus Rafinesque. Decreasing mean lengths of fish carcasses during the fish kill for C. carpio, L. cyanellus, and A. melas, indicate that smaller fishes may have been more tolerant of harsh environmental conditions than larger individuals of the same species. Differential mortalities among species and sizes during drawdowns in actively managed wetland pools may have intentional and unintentional ramifications on wetland and riverine fish community structure, fish-avian interactions, and implementing an ecosystem management perspective to restoring more naturalized river floodplain wetland functions. Late summer and early autumn draining of managed wetlands might be used to benefit a wider diversity of wildlife and fishes.
Additional publication details
Fish mortality and physicochemistry in a managed floodplain wetland