Fish Communities at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie Stream Reach
Stream at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.


An important part of tallgrass prairies is stream health. Many fish are sensitive to poor habitat and water quality conditions and serve as indicators of stream health. Over time, land use changes have affected fish populations. Dams, urbanization, and agriculture are examples of such land use changes. As a result of habitat and water quality degradation, many Midwestern fish species are at risk of population declines. The native Topeka shiner, present within Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, is federally endangered as a result of habitat changes.

Since 2001, scientists have been tracking fish populations in 12 streams on the Preserve. They collect fish using seine nets at different areas along the streams. 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.
Tallgrass Prairie Topeka Shiner Graph.
Topeka Shiner counts at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve from 2001 to 2016.


Thirty-seven fish species have been caught in the park. Fish communities did not vary greatly among the years sampled. Most streams had moderate to high diversity and good stream integrity scores. This suggests that fish communities are healthy and diverse. Topeka shiners were found in five stream sections, but most were found in a single section. The number of Topeka shiners caught has declined throughout sampling years. In 2002, 72 Topeka shiners were caught compared to 1 individual in 2008. Because of the location where Topeka shiners were caught, larger source populations may exist outside the park boundaries. Scientists continue to monitor the streams at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve to track fish communities and the Topeka shiner.
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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.

Last updated: March 16, 2018