Floodplain habitats provide critical spawning and rearing habitats for many large-river fishes. The paradigm that floodplains are essential habitats is often a key reason for restoring altered rivers to natural flow regimes. However, few studies have documented spatial and temporal utilization of floodplain habitats by adult fish of sport or commercial management interest or assessed obligatory access to floodplain habitats for species' persistence. In this study, we applied telemetry techniques to examine adult fish movements between floodplain and mainstem habitats, paired with intensive light trap sampling of larval fish in these same habitats, to assess the relationships between riverine flows and fish movement and spawning patterns in restored and unmodified floodplain distributaries of the Apalachicola River, Florida. Our intent is to inform resource managers on the relationships between the timing, magnitude and duration of flow events and fish spawning as part of river management actions. Our results demonstrate spawning by all study species in floodplain and mainstem river habitat types, apparent migratory movements of some species between these habitats, and distinct spawning events for each study species on the basis of fish movement patterns and light trap catches. Additionally, Micropterus spp., Lepomis spp. and, to a lesser degree, Minytrema melanops used floodplain channel habitat that was experimentally reconnected to the mainstem within a few weeks of completing the restoration. This result is of interest to managers assessing restoration activities to reconnect these habitats as part of riverine restoration programmes globally.
Additional publication details
Importance of floodplain connectivity to fish populations in the Apalachicola River, Florida