Spatial and temporal patterns in fish assemblages of upper coastal plain streams, Mississippi, USA
We assessed spatial, seasonal, and annual variation in fish assemblages over 17 months in three small- to medium-sized, incised streams characteristic of northwestern Mississippi streams. We sampled 17 962 fish representing 52 species and compared assemblages within and among streams. Although annual and seasonal variability inassemblage structure was high, fish assemblages maintained characteristics unique to each stream. High variability in fish catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) was exemplified in one site where total CPUE increased an order of magnitude from July 1993 to 1994. Species turnover and percent dissimilarity were often higher seasonally than annually, consistent with a period of change in spring to early summer and a return to similar species compositions between summers. Temporal variability was also high at the individual species level, and no species were classified as 'stable'. We found little evidence for correlation between changes in fish assemblage structure and measured habitat conditions. The fish characteristics fit the profile of 'colonizing assemblages', which probably resulted from both natural and anthropogenic causes. Flashy hydrographs, created in part by stream channelization and incision and watershed deforestation, may play a large role in structuring these fish assemblages. Extreme interannual variability in assemblages in the absence of detectable habitat change has important implications for the statistical power of fish monitoring programs designed to detect trends in fish assemblages over time.