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Tuesday, February 7 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Technical Session. Freezing and Flooding: Factors Affecting Centrarchid Sportfish Populations in the Lower Illinois River

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AUTHORS: Jason DeBoer, Illinois River Biological Station; Andrea Fritts, U.S. Geological Survey; Mark Fritts, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Rich Pendleton, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Levi Solomon, Illinois River Biological Station; TD VanMiddlesworth, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality; Andrew Casper, Illinois River Biological Station

ABSTRACT: The frequency and seasonality of key hydrologic events like floods and droughts can strongly regulate populations of fishes in Midwestern floodplain rivers. Geomorphology and hydrologic connectivity often play important mitigating roles by providing access to seasonal refugia. However, human-manipulated water-level fluctuations from lock and dam operations, and anthropogenically increased sedimentation, can limit connectivity and degrade refugia quality, which can strongly affect populations of nest-building fishes like centrarchids. We believe that centrarchid populations in the Lower Illinois River are limited by poor habitat quality in backwater areas plagued by anthropogenically derived sedimentation; these areas are used by centrarchids for spawning, nursery, and overwinter habitat throughout the region. In this presentation, we will explore recent dynamics in centrarchid population cycles (i.e., relative abundance and growth) that we believe are directly predicated on extreme weather events acting in opposite directions. Although moderate to severe flooding provides much-needed access to inundated terrestrial habitat for spawning and rearing, harsh winter weather can create intolerable abiotic conditions in poor-quality backwater habitats, thereby increasing overwinter mortality of centrarchid populations. As a consequence of this episodic push-pull dynamic, centrarchid populations in the Lower Illinois River exhibit pronounced boom-bust cycles that populations in the Upper Illinois River, where hydrology and connectivity are less degraded, do not. It is imperative that backwater habitats in the Lower Illinois River are improved to allow for more consistent production and increased longevity of centrarchid populations in this region.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 2:20pm - 2:40pm CST
Grand Ballroom C