Effects of riparian vegetation and watershed urbanization on fishes in streams of the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont (USA)

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Horwitz, R.J., T.E. Johnson, P.F. Overbeck, T.K. O’Donnell, W.C. Hession, and B.W. Sweeney. 2008. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 44(3):1–18.

doi: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2008.00201.x


The joint influences of riparian vegetation and urbanization on fish assemblages were analyzed by depletion sampling in paired forested and nonforested reaches of 25 small streams along an urbanization gradient. Nonforested reaches were narrower than their forested counterparts, so densities based on surface area differ from linear densities (based on reach length). Linear densities (based on number or biomass of fish) of American eel, white sucker and tesselated darter, and the proportion of biomass of benthic invertivores were significantly higher in nonforested reaches, while linear densities of margined madtom and the number of pool species were significantly higher in forested reaches. Observed riparian effects may reflect differences in habitat and algal productivity between forested and nonforested reaches. These results suggest that relatively small-scale riparian restoration projects can affect local geomorphology and the abundance of fish. Dense vegetative cover in riparian zones and similar or analogous habitats in both forested and nonforested reaches, the relatively small scale of the nonforested reaches, and the low statistical power to detect differences in abundance of rare species may have limited the observed differences between forested and nonforested reaches. There was a strong urbanization gradient, with reductions of intolerant species and increases of tolerant species and omnivores with increasing urbanization. Interactions between riparian vegetation type and urbanization were found for blacknose dace, creek chub, tesselated darter, and the proportion of biomass of lithophilic spawners. The study did not provide consistent support for the hypotheses that responses of fish to riparian vegetation would be overwhelmed by urban degradation or insignificant at low urbanization.