, Volume 93, Issue 1-3, pp 139-156

Relation of Environmental Characteristics to Fish Assemblages in the Upper French Broad River Basin, North Carolina

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Abstract

Fish assemblages at 16 sites in the upper French Broad River basin, North Carolina were related to environmental characteristics using detrended correspondence analysis, principal components analysis, and linear regression. The primary gradient affecting sites in this basin was related to agricultural influence, characterized by high levels of agricultural land cover, nitrate plus nitrite, sulfate, specific conductance, and sediment. Agricultural influence on the fish assemblage was represented as a trophic shift from specialized insectivores to generalized insectivores and an herbivore. A secondary influence on variation among sites was related to urban land cover, population density, increased concentrations of metals, and soil erodibility. This primarily urban gradient was characterized by an increase in the number of native and introduced fish species, particularly sunfish and omnivores species, and a decline in the percent of piscivores. These results support the identification of indicators for different environmental influences, which can improve the ability of resource managers to diagnose impairment in this basin and in similar basins.