Agriculture and urban land use can affect the water quality of streams and the animals that live in them. Many fish are sensitive to poor habitat and water quality conditions and serve as good indicators of stream health. As a result of habitat and water quality degradation, many Midwestern fish species are at risk of population declines. It is important to protect portions of streams on publicly owned lands to offer refuge for these declining species.
Scientists have been monitoring fish populations since 2006 in Wilson’s Creek and two tributaries, Skegg’s Branch and Terrell Creek. 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.
Fish Communities at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
A total of 37 fish species have been caught in the park. Fish communities did not vary greatly among the years sampled. The fish communities were diverse and healthy in all three streams, despite known water quality issues within Wilson’s Creek. All three streams had relatively high stream integrity scores. This suggests that fish communities were dominated by species intolerant to poor water quality. Despite its high stream integrity scores, fish in Wilson’s Creek had a larger number of individuals with abnormalities than the two tributaries. Scientists will continue to monitor fish communities at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to help track the health of the streams.