Fish Communities at Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Electrofishing at Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Scientists using electrofishing techniques to study fish communities.

NPS-Photo

The Current River is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the United States. The park only encompasses 5% of the river’s watershed. This leaves much of the watershed susceptible to human activities such as logging, agriculture, and urbanization. Many fish are sensitive and serve as indicators of stream health. Over time, land use changes can affect fish populations. As a result of habitat changes and a decline in water quality, many Midwestern fish species are at risk of population declines. The Ozarks region is considered a “hotspot” for at-risk fish. Many species, such as darters, sculpins, and madtoms, need pristine conditions to survive.

Scientists have been tracking fish populations in the Current River and its tributaries since 2005. They collect fish by using electrofishing techniques. Tracking fish allows scientists to determine which species are in the park and how well they doing in the streams. Fish data is then related back to stream habitat and water quality conditions.
Ozark Fish Diversity Graph
Average fish diversity for sample reaches on the Current River (C1-C6) and Jacks Fork (J1-J3) at Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

NPS

Fish communities did not vary greatly among years sampled. Most species were collected in the middle and lower sections of the Current River, where waters are slightly warmer. The Current River and its main tributary, Jacks Fork, had high diversity and good to excellent stream integrity scores. This suggests that the fish communities are extremely healthy and diverse. Smaller tributaries also had diverse communities with good stream integrity. Only one tributary had a large number of tolerant fish species, suggesting a lower quality. Scientists will continue to monitor the Current River and its tributaries to track changes in fish community health.
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Data in this report were collected and analyzed using methods based on established, peer-reviewed protocols and were analyzed and interpreted within the guidelines of the protocols.