The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge staff focuses on improving habitat for the highest incidence of endemic species for an area of its size in the continental United States. Attempts are being made to restore habitat to some semblance of its pre-anthropogenic undisturbed condition, and to provide habitat conditions to which native plant and animal species have evolved. Unfortunately, restoring the Ash Meadows’ Oases to its pre-anthropogenic undisturbed condition is almost impossible. First, there are constraints on water manipulation because there are private holdings within the refuge boundary; second, there has been at least one species extinction—the Ash Meadows pool fish (Empetrichthys merriami). It is also quite possible that thermal endemic invertebrate species were lost before ever being described. Perhaps the primary obstacle to restoring Ash Meadows to its pre-anthropogenic undisturbed conditions is the presence of invasive species. However, invasive species, such as red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarki) and western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), are a primary driving force in restoring Ash Meadows’ spring systems, because under certain habitat conditions they can all but replace native species. Returning Ash Meadows’ physical landscape to some semblance of its pre-anthropogenic undisturbed condition through natural processes may take decades. Meanwhile, the natural dissolution of concrete and earthen irrigation channels threatens to allow cattail marshes to flourish instead of spring-brooks immediately downstream of spring discharge. This successional stage favors non-native crayfish and mosquitofish over the native Amargosa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis). Thus, restoration is needed to control non-natives and to promote native species, and without such intervention the probability of native fish reduction or loss, is anticipated. The four studies in this report are intended to provide information for restoring native fish habitat and for monitoring native fish populations in relation to restoration efforts on the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. There are no precise records on conditions of each of the spring systems prior to anthropogenic alteration; however, fostering conditions that favor native over non-natives will be key to habitat restoration. Information regarding native species carbon source is needed to create habitat that favors native species, thus habitat restoration fostering food stuff consumed by native species should be considered in restoration efforts. In compiling data for the first part of this report, we tracked carbon source for native and non-native species at four stations along the Jackrabbit Spring system. Thus, we were able to contrast carbon source in warm- and cool-water habitats. Habitat in Jackrabbit Spring was improved for native fishes in 2007. The second paper in this report focuses on native fish populations in Jackrabbit Spring system pre- and post-restoration. Much of the Ash Meadows Oases is marsh habitat where non-native red swamp crayfish and western mosquitofish are often abundant, to the detriment of non-natives. Because marsh habitat is broadly represented in the Ash Meadows landscape, establishing marsh habitat most conducive to the native fishes is important to the restoration effort, and the third paper addresses marsh habitat type with the relative abundance of fishes and crayfish. There are previous years of monitoring Ash Meadows’ native fish populations, but not all monitoring occurred at the same time of year. Desert-fish populations sometimes undergo seasonal fluctuation, so it might not be valid to compare population trends using difference seasons. For report four, we tracked a closed population of Amargosa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis) year round to track seasonal trends. Knowledge of seasonal trends is important in tracking changes of populations pre- and post-restoration.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Information to support to monitoring and habitat restoration on Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge