Environmental Management

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 181-194

First online:

Modeling the Relations Between Flow Regime Components, Species Traits, and Spawning Success of Fishes in Warmwater Streams

  • Scott W. CravenAffiliated withWarnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
  • , James T. PetersonAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia Email author 
  • , Mary C. FreemanAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
  • , Thomas J. KwakAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University
  • , Elise IrwinAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Auburn University

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Modifications to stream hydrologic regimes can have a profound influence on the dynamics of their fish populations. Using hierarchical linear models, we examined the relations between flow regime and young-of-year fish density using fish sampling and discharge data from three different warmwater streams in Illinois, Alabama, and Georgia. We used an information theoretic approach to evaluate the relative support for models describing hypothesized influences of five flow regime components representing: short-term high and low flows; short-term flow stability; and long-term mean flows and flow stability on fish reproductive success during fish spawning and rearing periods. We also evaluated the influence of ten fish species traits on fish reproductive success. Species traits included spawning duration, reproductive strategy, egg incubation rate, swimming locomotion morphology, general habitat preference, and food habits. Model selection results indicated that young-of-year fish density was positively related to short-term high flows during the spawning period and negatively related to flow variability during the rearing period. However, the effect of the flow regime components varied substantially among species, but was related to species traits. The effect of short-term high flows on the reproductive success was lower for species that broadcast their eggs during spawning. Species with cruiser swimming locomotion morphologies (e.g., Micropterus) also were more vulnerable to variable flows during the rearing period. Our models provide insight into the conditions and timing of flows that influence the reproductive success of warmwater stream fishes and may guide decisions related to stream regulation and management.


Hierarchical models Information theoretic Flow management