Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 957–970 | Cite as

Cumulative Industrial Activity Alters Lotic Fish Assemblages in Two Boreal Forest Watersheds of Alberta, Canada

  • Garry J. Scrimgeour
  • Paul J. Hvenegaard
  • John Tchir


We evaluated the cumulative effects of land use disturbance resulting from forest harvesting, and exploration and extraction of oil and gas resources on the occurrence and structure of stream fish assemblages in the Kakwa and Simonette watersheds in Alberta, Canada. Logistic regression models showed that the occurrence of numerically dominant species in both watersheds was related to two metrics defining industrial activity (i.e., percent disturbance and road density), in addition to stream wetted width, elevation, reach slope, and percent fines. Occurrences of bull trout, slimy sculpin, and white sucker were negatively related to percent disturbance and that of Arctic grayling, and mountain whitefish were positively related to percent disturbance and road density. Assessments of individual sites showed that 76% of the 74 and 46 test sites in the Kakwa and Simonette watersheds were possibly impaired or impaired. Impaired sites in the Kakwa Watershed supported lower densities of bull trout, mountain whitefish, and rainbow trout, but higher densities of Arctic grayling compared to appropriate reference sites. Impaired sites in the Simonette Watershed supported lower densities of bull trout, but higher densities of lake chub compared to reference sites. Our data suggest that current levels of land use disturbance alters the occurrence and structure of stream fish assemblages.


Stream fish Cumulative effects Land use Disturbance Boreal forest 



This work was developed and completed by the Alberta Conservation Association and the Alberta Research Council for the Northern Watershed Project Stakeholder Committee that comprised the nine funding organizations of Alberta Environment (Government of Alberta), Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, Alberta Research Council, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (Government of Alberta), Daishowa-Marubeni International, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Government of Canada), Manning Diversified Forest Products, and TransCanada Pipelines. We thank the Stakeholder committee for their input on the scope and direction of the project and for providing funding and in-kind support. We also thank Travis Ripley, Rich McCleary, and Bill Tonn for sharing some of their knowledge on bull trout, Trefor Reynoldson for discussions on the reference condition approach, and Brian Fairless for developing and completing GIS queries. We thank Thom Whittier, Les Stanfield, two anonymous reviewers, and Lizhu Wang for their comments, which improved this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Garry J. Scrimgeour
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul J. Hvenegaard
    • 3
  • John Tchir
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Alberta Conservation AssociationABCanada
  2. 2.Parks Canada Agency, Western and Northern Service CentreCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Alberta Conservation AssociationPeace RiverCanada
  4. 4.Fish and Wildlife DivisionAlberta Sustainable Resource DevelopmentGrande PrairieCanada

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