, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 373-388

Fish Communities of the Sacramento River Basin: Implications for Conservation of Native Fishes in the Central Valley, California

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Abstract

The associations of resident fish communities with environmental variables and stream condition were evaluated at representative sites within the Sacramento River Basin, California between 1996 and 1998 using multivariate ordination techniques and by calculating six fish community metrics. In addition, the results of the current study were compared with recent studies in the San Joaquin River drainage to provide a wider perspective of the condition of resident fish communities in the Central Valley of California as a whole. Within the Sacramento drainage, species distributions were correlated with elevational and substrate size gradients; however, the elevation of a sampling site was correlated with a suite of water-quality and habitat variables that are indicative of land use effects on physio-chemical stream parameters. Four fish community metrics – percentage of native fish, percentage of intolerant fish, number of tolerant species, and percentage of fish with external anomalies – were responsive to environmental quality. Comparisons between the current study and recent studies in the San Joaquin River drainage suggested that differences in water-management practices may have significant effects on native species fish community structure. Additionally, the results of the current study suggest that index of biotic integrity-type indices can be developed for the Sacramento River Basin and possibly the entire Central Valley, California. The protection of native fish communities in the Central Valley and other arid environments continues to be a conflict between human needs for water resources and the requirements of aquatic ecosystems; preservation of these ecosystems will require innovative management strategies.