ONE FISH, TWO FISH, LOW STREAM... FULL FISH? AN EXPLORATION OF THE EFFECTS OF DROUGHT ON STREAM DARTERS AND THEIR PREY
Droughts are increasing in frequency and intensity in the southeastern United States. Drought can affect fish and the small invertebrates they rely on for food by reducing prey production, while fish may change their consumption patterns, altering prey community composition. Previous studies in a Piedmont river have shown increased densities of a benthic fish, a key predator of aquatic invertebrates, during drought as adults and young-of-year crowd into diminished shoal habitat. However, the effect of these concentrated fish populations on the invertebrate prey community remains largely unstudied, as is how prey quality and thus fish development may concurrently change. To address these questions, we examined the diet of a dominant benthic fish, the turquoise darter (Etheostoma inscriptum), in the Middle Oconee River during low- and high-flow years. Preliminary findings indicate an increase in the biomass proportion of Chironomidae larvae in fish diets during low-flow periods. Higher proportions of Chironomidae are also significantly correlated with smaller darter lengths. Together, these findings of smaller fish size and smaller prey in fish diets show that consumption patterns of a dominant fish may change with drought, with potential implications for fish and invertebrate production.
Caitlin Conn (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), University of Georgia, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Mary Freeman (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), US Geological Survey, email@example.com;
Amy Rosemond (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), University of Georgia, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Isabel Evelyn (Primary Presenter/Author), University of Georgia, email@example.com;