Modelling the Success of a Native Fish Reintroduction and Its Impacts on Resident Fish Assemblages

Brian Bush
Undergraduate (Environmental & Plant Sciences)
Dr. Mazeika Sullivan
Environment and Natural Resources

Native fish reintroduction can be a valuable conservation tool used to curb declines in biodiversity. Previous native fish reintroduction projects have focused on monitoring population responses of the target species, yet potential changes in the resident fish assemblages have received less attention. The reintroduction of the Bluebreast Darter (Etheostoma camurum) to the Upper Licking River basin in Ohio will be used as a model to understand how reintroduction may alter resident fish assemblages. This reintroduction began in 2016, with one additional year of stocking in 2017, and yearly follow-up surveys through 2019. Fish community, water-chemistry, and geomorphic measurements were also performed at the reintroduction sites. Using linear mixed models, we found that the benthic fish assemblage diversity and evenness has changed over time in response to the reintroduction, with substrate acting as an important covariate. Both diversity and evenness increased post reintroduction, peaking in 2018 and then dropping back down to similar levels at the beginning of the project. This research helps to better understand how reintroductions may impact aquatic community architecture and inform future reintroduction efforts.