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Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Appalachian stream fish diversity: The more the merrier!

Appalachian streams provide important habitat for recreational fish, such as Brook Trout. A new study suggests that fish production—a function of fish size, growth, and numbers—increases as the number of species increases. The results highlight a need to conserve and manage not only charismatically or commercially important species but also lesser known, endemic freshwater fishes.

Several different species of fish that were found in forest streams
The researchers sampled fish in 25 streams in the George Washington and Jefferson, Nantahala, Pisgah, Monongahela, and Green Mountain National Forests. USDA Forest Service photo.

Freshwater fish are vulnerable to climate change and other human stressors; however, in comparison with animals that live on land, freshwater fish are not well known. As the climate continues to warm, now is the time to increase understanding of freshwater ecosystems to inform conservation research and management.

Fish production is an expansive metric. It represents the number of individuals, their weight, and their annual growth. Studies measuring fish production are exceedingly rare, in part because of the extensive effort required to estimate production for every species in a fish community. Southern Research Station scientists and partners examined the relationship between fish production and fish species diversity. The study took place in 25 Appalachian Mountain streams, and the researchers found that more species meant greater production. With each additional species, fish production increased by 0.06 grams per square meter per year, after accounting for other aspects of habitat that also are associated with fish production.

By advancing our understanding of this relationship between species diversity and production in freshwater ecosystems, research can inform conservation, management, and future research questions.

Principal Investigators
C. Andrew Dolloff, Project Leader
RWU
4353 - Center for Forest Watershed Research
Strategic Program Areas
Resource Management and Use
Wildlife and Fish
Publications
Diversity production relationships of fish communities in freshwater stream ecosystems
Research Partners
Keith Nislow - Nothern Research Station
External Partners
Bonnie J.E. Myers - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Andrew L. Rypel - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Jackson Webster - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University