We used data from 91 stream reaches in the Missouri River drainage of Wyoming to determine whether abiotic and biotic factors were related to the abundance of four cyprinid species associated with turbid-river environments: flathead chub Platygobio gracilis, sturgeon chub Macrhybopsis gelida, plains minnow Hybognathus placitus, and western silvery minnow H. argyritis. The abundance of these cyprinids was positively related to the percentage of fine substrate in a reach and inversely related to the percentage of gravel substrate, the percentage of large rocky substrate, and the abundance of exotic piscivores. Differences in substrate composition and abundance of exotic piscivores were largely explained by the presence and location of large, mainstem impoundments. Reaches without any large impoundments in their watershed had a high percentage of fine substrate, high catch rates of turbid-river cyprinids, few exotic piscivores, and little gravel or large rocky substrate. Reaches with a downstream impoundment (i.e., within 200 km) had habitat characteristics similar to those without impoundments but had few turbid-river cyprinids and many exotic piscivores. Reaches with an upstream impoundment (i.e., within 200 km) had little fine substrate, a high percentage of large rocky substrate, few turbid-river cyprinids, and many exotic piscivores. Our results suggest that impoundments have had a substantial influence on the distribution and abundance of cyprinid species adapted to hydrologically dynamic, turbid prairie streams and that conserving these species is dependent on maintaining natural flow and sediment transport regimes and on reducing habitat suitability for exotic piscivores.
Additional publication details
Relations among habitat characteristics, exotic species, and turbid-river cyprinids in the Missouri River drainage of Wyoming