The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, assessed the potential use of combining recently (2007 to 2010) and formerly (1992 to 1996) collected data to compare plains fish assemblages sampled from random and fixed sites located in the South Platte and Arkansas River Basins in Colorado. The first step was to determine if fish assemblages collected between 1992 and 1996 were comparable to samples collected at the same sites between 2007 and 2010. If samples from the two time periods were comparable, then it was considered reasonable that the combined time-period data could be used to make comparisons between random and fixed sites. In contrast, if differences were found between the two time periods, then it was considered unreasonable to use these data to make comparisons between random and fixed sites. One-hundred samples collected during the 1990s and 2000s from 50 sites dispersed among 19 streams in both basins were compiled from a database maintained by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Nonparametric multivariate two-way analysis of similarities was used to test for fish-assemblage differences between time periods while accounting for stream-to-stream differences. Results indicated relatively weak but significant time-period differences in fish assemblages. Weak time-period differences in this case possibly were related to changes in fish assemblages associated with environmental factors; however, it is difficult to separate other possible explanations such as limited replication of paired time-period samples in many of the streams or perhaps differences in sampling efficiency and effort between the time periods. Regardless, using the 1990s data to fill data gaps to compare random and fixed-site fish-assemblage data is ill advised based on the significant separation in fish assemblages between time periods and the inability to determine conclusive explanations for these results. These findings indicated that additional sampling will be necessary before unbiased comparisons can be made between fish assemblages collected from random and fixed sites in the South Platte and Arkansas River Basins.
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Assessing the use of existing data to compare plains fish assemblages collected from random and fixed sites in Colorado