We quantified the watershed-scale spatial population dynamics of brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis in the Second Fork, a third-order tributary of Shavers Fork in eastern West Virginia. We used visual surveys, electrofishing, and mark-recapture techniques to quantify brook trout spawning intensity, population density, size structure, and demographic rates (apparent survival and immigration) throughout the watershed. Our analyses produced the following results. Spawning by brook trout was concentrated in streams with small basin areas (i.e., segments draining less than 3 km2), relatively high alkalinity (>10 mg CaCO3/L), and high amounts of instream cover. The spatial distribution of juvenile and small-adult brook trout within the watershed was relatively stable and was significantly correlated with spawning intensity. However, no such relationship was observed for large adults, which exhibited highly variable distribution patterns related to seasonally important habitat features, including instream cover, stream depth and width, and riparian canopy cover. Brook trout survival and immigration rates varied seasonally, spatially, and among size-classes. Differential survival and immigration tended to concentrate juveniles and small adults in small, alkaline streams, whereas dispersal tended to redistribute large adults at the watershed scale. Our results suggest that spatial and temporal variations in spawning, survival, and movement interact to determine the distribution, abundance, and size structure of brook trout populations at a watershed scale. These results underscore the importance of small tributaries for the persistence of brook trout in this watershed and the need to consider watershed-scale processes when designing management plans for Appalachian brook trout populations. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2005.
Additional publication details
Spatial and seasonal dynamics of brook trout populations inhabiting a central Appalachian watershed