Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 381-397

First online:

Spatial and temporal patterns in the fish assemblages of individual pools in a midwestern stream (U.S.A.)

  • William J. MatthewsAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma Biological Station
  • , Bret C. HarveyAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma Biological Station
  • , Mary E. PowerAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma Biological Station

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The composition and consistency of fish assemblages in 14 adjacent pools (6–120 m long) of a clear-water, limestone and gravel creek in midwestern U.S.A. were quantified in eight snorkeling surveys over 19 months, to establish a baseline of natural variation in the system at this scale. The fauna of the stream was dominated numerically by minnows (Cyprinidae), sunfish and black bass (Centrarchidae), and topminnows (Fundulidae). The pool fish fauna of the total 1 km reach (including all 14 pools) was highly consistent throughout the study, despite two major floods. Assemblages in individual pools generally were consistent, but there was more variation within pools than at the scale of the entire reach. Throughout the study, most individual pools remained within discrete subsets of the total occupied multivariate space in a principal components analysis based on fish species abundances. Sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) and bass (Micropterus spp.) were more consistent in their distribution among pools than were minnows (Cyprinidae) or a topminnow (Fundulus). There were 25 significant correlations in occurrence of species pairs among stream pools, out of 91 possible comparisons of the 14 most abundant taxa in the reach. Many pools contained assemblages either dominated by large centrarchids or by abundant cyprinids and juvenile centrarchids, but intermediate assemblages also were observed. The dynamics of distribution of fish species and fish assemblages among individual stream pools are likely influenced by a combination of species-specific behaviors and habitat selection, predator constraints on use of individual pools by small fishes, riffles as size-selective barriers to fish movements between pools, dispersal of young-of-the-year fishes, and abiotic phenomena like floods. Individual stream pools appear to be discrete habitat units for fishes, and do represent an appropriate scale for biologically meaningful studies of fish assemblages or their effects on streams.

Key words

Assemblage structure Assemblage consistency Stream fishes Disturbance Floods Seasonality