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Variations in Community Fish Production and Diversity Across the Appalachians: Implications for Climate Change
Myers, Bonnie Jean Evaline
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Climate change is considered a major threat to freshwater ecosystems through altering biodiversity, structure, and function. Having a thorough understanding of how diverse ecosystems respond to temperature change is vital to ecosystem management and conservation. During summer 2012, I quantified fish biomass, somatic growth, secondary production, and habitat data for fish communities in 25 Appalachian streams from Vermont to North Carolina. Multiple statistical tests were conducted to determine the relationship between community fish production and air and water temperature, species thermal guild production and air and water temperature, and the relationship between community fish production and diversity. Community fish production estimates ranged from 0.15 to 6.79 g m-2 yr-1 and community P/B ratios ranged from 0.21 to 1.07. No significant differences existed between mean community production estimates at the cold-water, cool-water, warm-water, and extreme northern sites (P=0.19), but P/B ratios in the extreme northern streams were statistically higher than mean community P/B in cold- and cool-water streams in the southern Appalachians (P=0.002). Water temperatures had a positive effect on community fish production (P=0.01) while air temperatures did not (P=0.10). Both air and water temperatures were significant in predicting whether community production would be dominated by cold-water or cool-water fish (P=0.001, P<0.0001, respectively). Community fish production was significantly, positively related to species richness (R2=0.38, P=0.001) and was one of the highest correlates of community production (R2=0.52). As climate change alters freshwater ecosystems, fish communities may transform by means of shifting fish abundance, biomass, and production among species ultimately affecting ecosystem structure, function, and biodiversity.
- Masters Theses