We evaluated the effects of streamflow-related changes in channel shape and morphology on the quality, quantity, availability and spatial distribution of young-of-year and adult smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu habitat in an alluvial stream, the Baron Fork of the Illinois River, Oklahoma. We developed Habitat Suitability Criteria (HSC) for young-of-year and adult smallmouth bass to assess changes in available smallmouth bass habitat between years, and compare predicted smallmouth bass Weighted Usable Area (WUA) with observed WUA measured the following year. Following flood events between 1999 and 2000, including a record flood, changes in transect cross-sectional area ranged from 62.5% to 93.5% and channel mesohabitat overlap ranged from 29.5% to 67.0% in study three study reaches. Using Physical HABitat SIMulation (PHABSIM) system analysis, we found that both young-of-year and adult smallmouth bass habitat were differentially affected by intra- and inter-annual streamflow fluctuations. Maximum WUA for young-of-year and adults occurred at streamflows of 1.8 and 2.3m3 s-1, respectively, and WUA declined sharply for both groups at lower streamflows. For most microhabitat variables, habitat availability was similar between years. Habitat suitability criteria developed in 1999 corresponded well with observed fish locations in 2000 for adult smallmouth bass but not for young-of-year fish. Our findings suggest that annual variation in habitat availability affects the predictive ability of habitat models for young-of-year smallmouth bass more than for adult smallmouth bass. Furthermore, our results showed that despite the dynamic nature of the gravel-dominated, alluvial Baron Fork, HSC for smallmouth bass were consistent and transferable between years.
Additional publication details
Effects of variation in streamflow and channel structure on smallmouth bass habitat in an alluvial stream