Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Watershed Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Todd A. Crowl

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Scott W. Miller

Abstract

It is important for humans to understand how ecosystems work because we depend on them for a variety of products and services. For example, rivers and streams provide fisheries, improved water quality, and recreational opportunities to many individuals. In rivers, interactions among fishes, other stream plants and animals, and the physical river environment can influence continued provision of these valuable services. However, the role played by many freshwater fishes in the provision of these services remains unknown. Additionally, it is important to identify different factors that affect the outcome of interactions involving riverine fishes. To address these issues, I evaluated how fishes influence different properties of rivers and streams, using a combined approach that summarized previous studies of fish effects on trophic structure and organic matter processing and incorporated field work in natural systems.

Overall, my work demonstrated that fishes can play important roles in rivers and streams. In particular, fish spawning migrations from lakes to streams can introduce nutrients to streams. Compared with other nutrient sources for streams, nutrients delivered by fish migrations can be substantial, and they may be used by other plants and animals in the stream to increase productivity. Beyond nutrient introduction, the physical disturbance of river sediments caused by the spawning activity of large migratory fishes can influence the availability of food resources for other stream animals. Additionally, my summary of previous fish studies indicated the consistent influence of fishes on nutrient dynamics and other stream organisms. While the role of riverine fishes varies, natural resource managers and researchers should focus on understanding how these widespread organisms influence valuable ecosystem services derived from freshwater resources.

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