Agriculture and urban land use affect water quality of streams and the animals that live in them. Many fish are sensitive to poor habitat and water quality conditions. Fish serve as good indicators of stream health. Midwestern fish species are at risk of population declines due to habitat and water quality degradation. It is important to protect portions of streams on publicly owned lands to offer refuge for these declining species.
Fish Communities at George Washington Carver National Monument
Scientists have been monitoring fish in three park streams since 2006. They collect fish using electrofishing techniques. Fish are measured and inspected for diseases and abnormalities. Monitoring fish allows scientists to determine which species are in the park and how well they are doing in the streams. Fish data is then related back to stream habitat and water quality conditions.
A total of 18 fish species have been caught in the park including the Arkansas darter, which was recently taken off the threatened species candidate list. Fish communities did not vary greatly among the years sampled. Overall, the fish communities were diverse and healthy with low percentage of disease. All three streams had moderate to high stream integrity scores. This suggests that fish communities were dominated by species intolerant to poor water quality such as darters, sculpins, and madtoms. Scientists will continue to monitor fish communities at George Washington Carver National Monument to help track the health of the streams and fish communities.