Detection probabilities and local population demographics of fishes in urbanized and forested streams of the New River basin, Virginia
Peoples, Brandon Kevin
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Aquatic biodiversity continues to decline as humans modify the landscape. A population-level approach is necessary to address the mechanisms of impairment in urban stream habitats. When estimating population-level parameters, incomplete detection of individuals must be accounted for to ensure unbiased estimates. In this thesis, I examined differences in the detection probabilities of stream fishes, and used estimates of size/age-specific detection probabilities to reduce bias in estimates of the reproductive success of various fish species in urban and forested stream habitats. In Chapter 1, I examined differences in detection probabilities of stream fishes among electrofishing passes and size/age groups in the middle New River basin, Virginia. I also examined differences in detection probabilities between two physiographic regions: the middle New River basin, and the upper Wabash River basin, Indiana; and evaluated differences between single- and multiple-season estimation methods. I found that for most species, detection probabilities do not differ among electrofishing passes, size/age classes, between the two regions, or between single- and multiple-season estimation methods. I used size/age-specific estimates of detection probabilities to remove bias from relative abundance estimates of steam fish populations in Chapter 2. In Chapter 2, I examined the reproductive success of six lithophilic and speleophilic fishes in urban and forested reaches of 2nd-4th Strahler-order streams in the middle New River basin. I found that binary classification is a poor method of quantifying reproductive success, that the age distributions of many lithophilic and speleophilic species are dominated by adult individuals in urban habitats, and that the population growth rates of speleophils is reduced in urban habitats. These results suggest that although detection probabilities may be equal among various sources of variation, managers should verify this assumption before assuming equal detectability. The results also suggest that reduced reproductive success of speleophilic and lithophilic species in urban stream habitats may be a mechanism of their impairment.