Influence of drought of seasonal fish assemblages and habitat in the lower Flint River Basin, Georgia
McCargo, Jeremy Walker
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Seasonal fish assemblages and their habitats were examined in the lower Flint River Basin during the drought years of 2001 and 2002 and the non-drought year of 2003. Species richness, biomass, and Index of Biotic Integrity were lower during the drought years, which suggested that low streamflows had negative effects on the fish assemblages. Fishes were able to recolonize drought-affected streams presumably by large-scale, seasonal movements of adult and juvenile fish. Species richness and biomass also were higher in groundwater-dominated streams during winter and summer, which suggests that these streams function both as winter thermal refugia and as significant fish production areas throughout the year. Findings from this study suggest that stream fragmentation could limit natural recolonization of impacted stream reaches and that lower Flint River Basin aquatic biota would benefit from management decisions based on streamflow models that incorporate both spatial and temporal components for evaluating long-term effects of flow policies.